The first really was just unfortunate circumstance. It was probably kind of their own fault, really. Their relationship was barely a few weeks old, and outside of Oki finding out by accident nobody knew they were together. It was still super tentative and overwhelming for two 17-year-old boys and they didn’t want to rock the boat right away.
But at the same time, Takaya wanted their first Christmas together to be special, dammit.
The plan was to keep it as low key as possible and play it by ear. See a movie, grab food, maybe something along those lines. Neither one of them had ever dated before so they didn’t exactly know how it worked, but it would still be pretty fun. It had taken a lot of sneaking around and excuses to get out of hanging out with the rest of the team too.
All that secrecy might have been their downfall, though.
“Abe-kun, it’s so great to see you again!”
Now to be absolutely clear, Takaya had absolutely no problem with Ruri. They barely knew each other, but what little interaction they had was far from unpleasant. He just didn’t want her third-wheeling on what was supposed to be a romantic evening.
“I d-didn’t know she was visiting…” Ren mumbled when they finally had a chance to talk. His head was down, but Takaya swore he could see Ren’s eyes boring holes into Ruri’s back as she walked leisurely ahead of them. “Mom said she should hang out with me and my friends.”
“Right. Because that’s what we said we were doing.” Takaya rubbed his face, breathing in deeply, “Now what?”
“Should…should we call someone? M-maybe Yuu-kun is around o-or Shouji-kun…”
“Yeah, and then then what?”
Ren made an uncomfortable noise and shrunk down a little, which made Takaya feel absolutely guilty but they both knew he was right. So yeah…they were stuck. Awesome.
And he tried to be nice about it, he really, really did – but it was just…Ruri was just there, all the time. She was an unavoidable, unmoving object placed there purely to ruin his Christmas.
When they went to grab food, she slid into the booth next to Ren before Takaya could even make it to the table. The movie was out of the question, because they couldn’t agree on something the three of them would enjoy. She dragged them through every crowded street, lamenting about how there were so many happy couples around them and yet the three of them were alone completely oblivious to the fact that IT. WAS. SUPPOSED. TO BE. A DATE.
Then there was the game center. That frigging game center. On a regular day, it was miserable. Too many people and a lot of noise – far from his cup of tea. Ren was even worse about it. But Ruri insisted, saying it was the perfect atmosphere for whatever tangent she found herself on, because Takaya had stopped listening long before that.
If he hated the game center normally, then on Christmas it was an absolute nightmare. By the time they pushed through the crowd, Takaya was ready to rip his hair out. Ren looked absolutely rattled too, reaching to cover his ears.
“Oh! Let’s try that one out,” Ruri exclaimed, reaching to pull Ren along, “RenRen, come on it’s not that bad.”
“Yes it is!”
Takaya whipped his head around, surprised that he could hear Ren over the rest of the noise.
Ruri looked just as surprised, letting her arms drop. She pouted a little, “Okay, so it’s busy, but I just want us to have fun. You’ve both been so grumpy.”
“B-because we wanted to be alone! It was supposed to be the two of us!”
She looked at the two of them, at first completely bewildered, but then as the dots connected in her head her eyes widened, “Oh…oh…OH! You guys…oh my god.” She covered her mouth, and Takaya braced himself for some kind of disgust, but instead, “I had no idea! I’m so sorry. Why didn’t you say something?”
“Mom d-doesn’t know…n-nobody knows.”
Takaya sighed, rubbing the back of his neck, “We haven’t been on an actual date yet. We’re still figuring this out.”
“Oh no, oh my god. I’m such a jerk. I can’t believe this.” She frowned, deeply.
That maybe, possibly made Takaya feel just a little bad. It obviously wasn’t her fault and she didn’t mean any of it, but it didn’t change the fact that their night was completely ruined. Having everything out in the open probably made it worse too, because now there were three miserable people spending Christmas together instead of just two.
“Wait, I think I might have an idea,” Ruri pushed past them, “You guys wait here, I’ll be right back.”
It wasn’t like they could move anywhere else, anyway.
Takaya covered his own ears, moving in close to Ren, “I guess there’s always next year.”
“I’m so sorry, Takaya-kun.”
“Don’t. We’ll try again.”
Ruri grabbed onto the back of his shirt, “Okay, you two, come with me.”
She led the two of them up an escalator and down a hallway. She opened one of the doors, revealing a small karaoke room, “I could only get an hour, sorry. But I’ll be downstairs. Merry Christmas.”
With the door closed, most of the sounds coming from the lower level and other rooms muffled out.
Ren looked completely relieved and plopped down on the seat.
Takaya was quick to join him and stretched his legs forward. “So…should we put something on?”
“No, um…” Ren looked a little red, but lowered his head, resting it on Takaya’s shoulder, “I-is…is this okay? I don’t…it’s been a lot.”
Takaya felt his heart beating out of his chest, but he still moved his arm to rest around Ren’s waist, “Yeah, it’s okay.”
It was the best hour he had all year.
By their second Christmas and last year in high school, everyone was in the loop. It was understood and generally expected that they were going to be spending the holiday together. Takaya was determined to make it work that year. He pre-ordered movie tickets, looked up hole in the wall restaurants that he was certain wouldn’t be totally crowded, saved up all of his money, and even bought a new shirt for the occasion. After the mess the previous year had been, he was ready to call this their first real Christmas.
Until Japan had what had to have been its heaviest snowfall in all of history.
It had actually started early on the 23rd and the news reports had repeated over and over again that it would be done by the next afternoon, only for the winds to pick up and drop another foot on Saitama over the next two days. Takaya swore it was spite. Some god in the heavens probably saw him and went, “Yeah, that guy? Abe Takaya? Fuck him.”
So that nixed everything. Roads were closed. Trains weren’t running on schedule. Even if places were open there was no way the two of them could get there, much less to each other.
Which left Takaya to sulk in his room. Alone. On Christmas.
He huffed and placed his head on his desk. His mom had tried to reassure him that they could do something in few days, or he could even invite Ren over for the new year, but that just soured his move even more. None of that would be the same, he just wanted this one thing.
When his phone vibrated against his desk, he could feel it in his teeth. He wanted to ignore it, figuring it was one of his parents trying to get his attention. But then he figured it was easier than having them come up to lecture him, so he reached for it anyway.
To his surprise – it was Ren. Ren, who avoided phone calls like the plague. Ren, who initiated emails and conversations once every hundred thousand years when the planets perfectly aligned.
And even more shockingly, it was a video call.
He swiped it open, half expecting Ren to realize he made a mistake and hang up right away.
But there he was, sitting on his bed with the phone at a somewhat awkward, yet definitely intentional angle. “Hi…” he started, a little shakily.
“I…wanted to see you…”
Ren nodded, swallowing hard. The phone shook a little as he fiddled with it, “Yeah.”
Takaya leaned forward, resting the phone against the wall and put his arms under his chin, “This sucks.”
“It’s so cold. And deep. I wanted to come over but my bike—”
“What?! Are you insane? What if you slipped on some ice and broke your arm, or worse cracked your head open?”
He flinched, “I would have been careful.”
“Jeez, just because Koushien is over doesn’t mean you can be so reckless.”
“No, wait just…be careful. At least until we hear back from that scout.”
“Okay…I, um, I wanted…I miss you.”
Takaya felt the tips of his ears warm up, “Yeah, you too.”
They spent the entire day on the phone. By the time Takaya hung up, only because Ren looked ready to pass out and Shun was complaining about him being too loud, his phone felt a bit overheated. Nevertheless, as he plugged it into the charger for the umpteenth time, it still felt like a Christmas well spent.
Next year would be even better, too.
The next year was not better. They were together, but it was so, so bad.
Takaya thought living together would have made things like going on dates significantly easier. They weren’t in the city center itself, but close enough to it that they could go out and about whenever the mood struck. Everyone in their building kept mostly to themselves too, so nobody really bothered them. With all this in mind, Christmas should have been a cinch.
Then came Suzuya.
Before that day, Takaya had never met Suzuya and he was pretty sure Ren only ran into her a handful of times. She was a third year at the medical school connected to their university but their paths had never really crossed, despite the fact Takaya was a first year in that same program. Aside from the occasional noise through the paper thin walls, they wouldn’t have even known someone was renting.
But because it was Christmas Eve and they had the worst luck, that’s when she decided to formally introduce herself.
“I made strew because I thought I was going to be home tonight and tomorrow, but some friends invited me on a trip,” she held out the pot to Takaya, smiling brightly, “you just need to keep it in the fridge until you’re ready and then heat it up on the stove. You and your roommate play baseball, right? Athletes need to eat.”
“You really don’t have to do this, we have plans tomorrow night and the rest of it will go to waste.”
“Don’t be silly, it’s still better than all of it going to waste. You could have it for lunch tomorrow too. Please, Abe-kun, I insist.”
So he took the stupid pot and put it in the fridge. When Ren got home from visiting is parents, Takaya put it on the stove and followed all the instructions Suzuya had given him. It tasted pretty alright, nothing to write home about and he figured it would work okay for lunch the next day.
And then 4:43AM rolled around.
Takaya had been the first to wake up, feeling slightly off. He swallowed a bit as the weird feeling traveled through his throat and face. He swallowed again. He tried to will himself to get up for some water, but then that ominous thought crossed his mind, “If you sit up, you’re going to throw up.”
He turned his head to look at Ren, silently hoping that this was just some kind of stomach bug and not what he suspected. He wiggled his way out from under Ren’s arm and rolled off the futon, holding his breath as his stomach gurgled. He started to crawl his way to the bathroom when that NOW. NOW. NOW. urgency hit him like a ton of bricks. Takaya scrambled to his feet and ran to the toilet, just barely making it before retching.
When he finally raised his head out of the toilet and flushed, he heard Ren coughing from the kitchen – probably on the tail end of his own vomiting spell. Takaya placed his head against the seat, “I’m going to kill Suzuya.”
It took until the early afternoon for the vomiting and bathroom trips to stop. Hanai had swung by in the hours before to bring them ginger ale, throw out the rest of the stew, clean up Suzuya’s pot, and set up their rice cooker for when they were feeling better.
“If anything,” he commented as he dried the top, “at least you two are consistent. Call me if you guys need anything else. If you’re feeling better by tonight I’m having cake with Shouji-kun and Yuuta-kun, maybe you can swing by.”
As Takaya crawled back into the futon, though, he knew that wasn’t even a possibility. “Christmas is cursed,” he groaned.
Ren buried his head into the pillow, “I’m never eating ever again.”
He pulled the extra blanket up higher, covering their shoulders, “Don’t say that. We’re just never eating anything Suzuya makes, ever again.”
“Mmm…” Ren moved in closer.
Their third Christmas consisted of a few good hours of sleep and two bowls of rice seeped in tea. They watched some dumb variety show on TV and read an article about some new baseball anime that would be starting in January. It wasn’t perfect, but it worked.
When Takaya returned the pot a few days later and told Suzuya about the food poisoning, she just shrugged.
“Oh,” Suzuya said, coolly, “that’s too bad.”
And that was when Takaya realized their neighbor was fucking insane.
But that’s a story for another time.
The most recent was because Takaya was a giant moron.
Ren was out for most of the day, finishing a project with two of his classmates. That gave Takaya all the time in the world to prepare for their quiet Christmas at home. His motivation going into all of it was the idea that if their attempts to go out always failed, maybe staying at home would work in their favor.
And at that point, it was actually working out in his favor. Suzuya had moved out weeks before (thank god), he hadn’t burned down the house making dinner, and the dishes weren’t a complete pain to clean up. That just left one thing.
Takaya reached into the pocket of his sweatshirt and pulled out a small box. He felt like an idiot, but Yuuto-kun had made a joke way back in the summer, and the idea stuck in the back of his head. He opened it up and pulled it out to inspect it.
It wasn’t an engagement ring, okay? It wasn’t that serious. It was…a promise of what could maybe, possibly, hopefully become one someday. Ren definitely wouldn’t wear it all the time, it would probably break during practice, and Takaya doubted it would ever actually leave the box but…well…ugh…
All his lamenting about his dumb ideas, his brain decided that holding the ring in between his thumb and index finger was too much of a strain. It slipped out of his grip and clanked first against the edge of the counter, then into the sink, and finally into the drain. He swore he saw his entire bank account flash in front of his eyes.
Just as he was about to scream, he noticed that it hadn’t completely fallen down and was just sitting at the very bottom. Surely, surely he could get it out. All he hand to do was reach in and…
How was he supposed to know his hand would get stuck?!
Even more panic rushed through his body as he heard the door open and close behind him.
“I’m home…” Ren greeted.
“Welcome back…help me.”
Ren rushed over to his side, looked down at his hand, at Takaya’s face, and then back down in the sink. He pressed his lips firmly closed to stifle a laugh.
“No, this isn’t funny. I’m stuck. Help.”
“O-okay, just…” he struggled as he tried not to laugh, “h-how did y-you…”
“I’ll explain later. Get butter.”
All the butter did was make his hand feel disgusting, so did the oil. It was amazing he was still holding onto the ring when all was said and done.
When he finally gave in and let Ren call 119, the paramedics laughed at him for a solid minute. Still they were able to pull his hand out without breaking it, so it was worth it.
The ring did slip out of his fingers again, but thankfully it just fell onto the edge of the sink. Of course it was right where Ren could see it, though.
Ren’s eyes widened a bit. The paramedics looked at the two of them, one looked mortified and quickly scurried out while the other stopped to clap his shoulder before following after. Takaya mentally screamed at the demon that seemed intent to ruin every Christmas he had with Ren.
Takaya sighed and leaned against the counter, careful of his still tender hand, “I’m not asking you to…it’s not like…maybe someday?”
Ren picked up the ring and wiped it on his shirt. It didn’t really fit when he slid it on his finger, but they could probably get it resized after the new year. “Someday.”
They both knew they had countless Christmases to get it right.