was a soft tapping on Kurama’s bedroom door, jarring him from a fitful sleep. He hadn’t been sleeping too
well recently, though it was to be expected. He was still suffering from the nightmares brought on by the tournament...
What if I’d lost her?
We didn’t lose her...
But I could have.
He shook his head,
looking up at the door as his mother knocked again, this time a touch louder. “Shuichi-san?” she said, softly.
“Are you awake? It’s Christmas, Shuichi-san. We have presents to open.”
He sighed, lifting
a hand to run his fingers through his hair... he needed a trim. “I’m awake, mother,” he replied.
The kitsune brushed
his blanket off and swung his legs over the edge of the bed. On the stand was a small, silver box wrapped with silver
lace. He chuckled. Hiei’s Christmas present? Yusuke must have been getting to the hybrid after all.
“I’ll meet you
downstairs, then,” Shiori said through the door. He could hear her footsteps travel down the hall and into the
Kurama tuned that out and got up to get dressed. Five minutes later, he snagged
the gift from Hiei and walked out the door. He found his mother sipping tea on the couch, waiting for him.
you sleep well?” she asked, setting down her cup on a saucer. She picked up an empty one and poured him some tea
Kurama smiled. “Yes,” he lied. “I dreamed about midterms,
of all things.”
Shiori chuckled. “Midterms? I have to wonder where
your mind is.” She gently nudged the saucer and cup toward him across the tea table with a finger. “Sit,
have some tea. We have all day.”
He gave her a brief bow and sat on the floor opposite
her. Silence fell between them. It was peaceful, as if the horror of maybe losing her had never existed... He
would work to protect her better, in the future.
“Should we open the
presents now?” Shiori asked suddenly.
Kurama blinked, about to ask what happened to their
‘time’, but he caught sight of her expression. She was worried about him again... He must be more
transparent than he’d assumed.
Forcing a smile (and hoping it didn’t look as forced as it
was), he nodded. “Sure.” He got to his feet and trotted over to the small artificial Christmas tree
set up in the corner of the living room, towering over a small arrangement of about eight or nine presents.
He picked one up
and sighed. “Yusuke was here?” he asked, looking at his mother.
She nodded and smiled.
“Yes. He brought some presents over. He’s a very sweet boy.”
Sweet boy. Right. “I
see. Well, I’m glad you approve of my... erm, friend,” he said with a sheepish expression, standing to bring
her the present in his hand.
Shiori beamed at him and waiting while he sorted out the presents.
Finally, he came to one labeled ‘to the mother’ with no signature.
‘The mother’? What in the world...?
Out of the corner
of his eye, a glimmer caught his attention. He glanced over at Hiei’s present, then down at the one in his hand.
It had the same kind of ribbon, though this one was wrapped in pale blue paper.
There was a lot of
Kurama sighed, trying not to laugh at his friend. “Mother? I forgot
to tell you, but my friend brought this.”
she asked, eying the present in his hand.
The redhead shook his head. “No. Not
him. Another friend of mine. Hiei.”
Shiori brightened at that. “Oh, like the
mountain?” she asked brightly, holding her hand out for the gift.
He grinned. “Yes!
Different kanji, though.” He got to his feet and handed it over, then resumed his seat to methodically open
“That’s nice of him, though,” Shiori said after a beat,
finally picking at the wrapping for Hiei’s present. Kurama watched closely, curious.
Inside were three
items. A white silk scarf, a tiny crystal bell (with protection properties, Kurama noted) and a small, red gem on a
leather cord. She lifted the gem and eyed it. “Is it a ruby?” she murmured to herself.
“Looks like it,”
Kurama lied, trying to keep himself from getting too excited. He knew what that was, and it wasn’t a ruby.
“It’s so pretty!”
Shiori said brightly. “And this bell and the scarf are as well! Your friend seems like a sweet boy...”
“The sweetest,” he fibbed, trying not to laugh at the thought. The words ‘Hiei’ and ‘sweet’
didn’t generally fit in the same sentence.
“Did he give you a
present?” Shiori asked curiously.
“Aa... He did,”
Kurama murmured, peering at the silver box on the tea table. Under his mother’s interested gaze, he sighed. May
as well get this over now...
“Okay, here we go,” the redhead said, trying to
muster some enthusiasm. Knowing Hiei, he’d given the kitsune something stupid like a ramen coupon. He wouldn’t
put it past the hybrid, anyway.
Nimble fingers gently rearranged the crossing ribbon so he could
brush it off the box. He did so and lifted the lid, raising a brow at the gift inside.
It wasn’t a
Gently, he lifted the small, gold stud, then the folded slip of paper underneath. “An
earring?” his mother said, eying it.
He smiled and nodded. “Yes. I got
my ear pierced last week, remember?”
she said, then went back to her own presents.
Meanwhile, Kurama unfolded the paper and scanned it,
brow lifting slightly.
‘It’s linked to the necklace.
Kurama smiled a little.
Ever brief, that was Hiei. “Mother? May I see your necklace?” Kurama asked politely.
She looked up at
him. “The one from Hiei-san?”
lifted it from the tea table and handed it over.
Letting it rest in his palm, he set the stud next to
it and held them up for his mother to see. “They match, see? The clasp on the gem is gold, like the earring.”
Shiori gasped, delighted.
“Oh! That was so sweet of him!”
Again with the ‘sweet’. “Yes,
it was very kind,” Kurama agreed, a little more honestly. It was kind of Hiei to do
this for them. Kurama could be a bit more at ease away from home from now on...
“Wear it always, mother?”
he asked, smiling at her. “Then we’ll forever be connected.”
Shiori looked at
him, then smiled back, taking the necklace and putting it on. “Sure, Shuichi-san,” she agreed gently. “So
we’ll forever be connected.”