Claws tapped at the school's table erratically. A blank sheet of paper laid in front of the source of the tapping, a Rare One named Marco.
The wolf sighed as he had been doing for the past several minutes. No ideas had come to mind for what to get Kobolgarde for Christmas.
He'd been the caretaker for her and her child, Brow, since they arrived in the variant village (Now called Rare Village) all those years ago. She was a widow who lost her husband to an illness, though she wasn't much healthier.
However, since the integration of Rare Ones into the outside world, she was able to get treatment the village doctor couldn't provide by himself and was now much livelier than before. She was even able to go outside without risking further health problems.
While Marco himself had greatly reduced his stress level as far back as over a decade ago, he still felt like it was going to skyrocket if he didn't think of something soon.
"You alright, Marco? You look like you're about to pop a vein." It was Molte, one of the teachers. The mouse sounded genuinely concerned for the poor wolf, which recalled a time when she wasn't so considerate.
He exhaled once more and said, "No, just can't think of a gift to give Kobolgarde. Since you bothered to ask, do you have any ideas?"
Molte giggled, "You're asking ME, the girl who's never been in love ever?"
"WHAT?! How are you coming to THAT conclusion?!" he yelled. As he did so, he stood up, accidentally knocking the chair he was sitting in over with his tail in the process.
Curling her mouth impishly, she continued her teasing. "Come on, old man, everyone knows the two of you have something special. When're you just going to admit it and put a ring on those tendrils?"
A blush formed on his furred cheeks. "I don't need this right now. And shouldn't you be busy writing that book of yours?"
Molte walked over to him and began pushing him out of the room and into the hall. "Nope, but you reminded me that it's time to start closing things up for tonight. Get your butt out there and get some flowers or something."
Marco protested this, but the mouse was stronger and wilier than she looked. Before he knew it, he was locked out of the school building and staring out into the snow.
A groan erupted from Marco's mouth and cloud of water vapor was released. He hated to admit it, even when she wasn't around, but maybe Molte was right. There was definitely something between him and Kobolgarde.
But, he got an idea. There were plenty of other people he was acquainted with who were in romantic relationships he could consult.
Getting into a nearby phone booth, he knew exactly who to call first.
After two rings, the phone picked up. "Hello? It's Marco. May I speak with Cosith or Kayoh?"
The only response was a single gruff "No", before he heard him abruptly hang up. Yep, just what he expected from Cosith.
Undeterred, he chose to call up his other choice, Malsus. Instead, Cosith answered again with "We're busy."
Of course, he had forgotten that they were all together at the archeological site.
"Tell them we're on holiday, that usually works better." came a voice from the other end that was unmistakably Malsus. Marco couldn't take any more of this and snapped at them. "Dammit, Malsus! I just need a suggestion for what to get Kobolgarde so I can..."
He trailed off, paused to take a deep breath and calmed down. "... so I can... tell her I love her."
There was silence on the other end, but thankfully they hadn't hung up on him. "So you're finally admitting it, then?" Malsus's voice answered, up close this time.
"Yeah..." He felt oddly at ease coming clean.
"Well, if you're expecting some step-by-step advice that will cruise you through the whole process, you've come to the wrong place, friend."
Marco stood silent as the bird continued. "Look, just... get her something that you can use to ease into the confession. Keep it simple and it'll work out."
"Are you sure?"
"It worked for Mupos and I, didn't it?"
"Yeah, but she doesn't talk!"
"She spoke when it mattered."
A smirk appeared on the wolf's face as he heard that. He chuckled softly to himself.
"Alright, go win her heart, tough boy." came the final reply from the other end before the dial tone ceased the conversation.
A few days later on Christmas day, Marco was sitting back home on the couch with a small package in his hands. While he was trying to wait patiently for Brow and Kobolgarde to awaken, he couldn't help but nervously tap his claws on the gift.
Eventually, the agonizing wait was over, as the sounds of the two descending the stairs came. It dawned on the canine that he would now have to deal with something even worse than the wait: the confession.
"Oh, I didn't realize you were already up, Marco." Kobolgarde said as she held tight to the railing. Before, he would have had to help her both ways on the stairs, but now the Rare One was in the best shape of her life and didn't require it.
Beside her was Brow, who only said an uncharacteristically terse "Morning." Marco could tell their gaze was transfixed on the present he was holding.
"Ah, hi. I was thinking we could start opening presents." he replied "Only if you want to, that is."
Kobolgarde looked confused. "But we haven't even had breakfast yet."
Suddenly, Brow scurried down the steps. "It's fine, mom, the two of you can open your presents. I'll just... make some tea, I suppose."
While her child ran off to the kitchen, she slunk over to the tree and wrapped her tendrils around an average-sized present with 'Marco' written on it and sat down next to the wolf.
"I think... we should do mine first."he said as he handed the box to her.
Since it wasn't wrapped, she opened it up with ease. Inside was a simple pink heart-shaped pin.
"That's my heart. I'm giving it to you because..." Marco turned away briefly and muttered, "Gah, this is so cheesy..." before facing Kobolgarde again. "Because I love you, Kobolgarde."
Silence filled the air. Marco was prepared to feel his actual heart sink and shut his eyes.
He opened one eye and was met with Kobolgarde's smiling face as teardrops fell from her eyes. "I never knew you felt the same way about me!"
His spirits lifting, Marco grinned back as she went on. "It's been so long since I was in love, but I'm not young anymore and don't know if I can be a suitable wife-"
Marco grabbed her finger-tentacles. "Utter nonsense! You're a wonderful, beautiful woman and I'll make sure to marry you someday!" His own eyes were tearing up at this point.
"Is that a promise?" the Rare One asked. Marco began wiping away some of her tears and whispered a single word: "Yeah."
Kobolgarde laughed slightly. "Well, I don't know how well my present's going to compare to all that!"
The two laughed for a bit before Marco began opening his gift.
In the kitchen, Brow softly smiled. It took them long enough, but at least the two of them could finally stop skirting around their feelings. Realizing that if they took much longer with the tea, it'd look suspicious, Brow quickly hurried along to finish it.