I never thought I would be afraid of one of Sonoda-san's delicious pastries. But here I was, part of small throng of boys keeping a careful distance from the dessert table and every once in a while casting a wary eye up towards the innocuous-looking sprig of green that hung above the table, full of implicit threat.
The giant yule log cake had already lured in two victims, hapless latecomers who hadn't realized there was a price to pay for a slice of cake. Joker-san had pointed up to the ceiling and loudly reminded everyone that all who stood under the mistletoe had to kiss or risk bad luck. They had been forced to peck on the lips at gunpoint, much to Joker-san's amusement. In the end, they were so traumatized they didn't even leave with any cake. I wasn't sure that was really honoring the spirit of the tradition, but everyone else at the Christmas party had gotten the message quick, and now there was a nervous ring of hungry boys around the table, waiting to see who would dare go near the cake first.
I thanked my luck that I had been called away when the cake was brought out or my appetite might have made me that boy forced to kiss someone that wasn't my boyfriend. And in front of him, no less! My eyes darted towards the back, where most of the teachers had been hovering, but the professor wasn't there anymore. Before I could look for him, Sonoda-san stomped angrily into the cafeteria from the kitchen and the cafeteria grew quiet as all eyes turned to him.
"Kiyo! What have you done to my cake!? I heard no one has taken a single slice!"
"Nooothing," Joker-san responded with a smile.
"Then why hasn't it even been sliced yet?"
"How should I know? All I did was try to make it festive."
Sonoda-san gave him a doubtful look and went over to inspect the cake. Nothing was wrong with it, so he looked around at all of us who were waitng to eat it.
"I don't get it..." he trailed off as he caught someone's eye who was motioning towards the greenery hanging from the ceiling.
"Is that what I think it is?"
"That depends on what you think it is, Eiji."
"This is a boys' school, Kiyo! What kind of idiot would put mistletoe up at a boys' school!"
"But it's tradition," Joker-san whined. "And besides, there are lunch ladies and female teachers here."
Sonoda-san snorted in disgust, crossing his arms impatiently. "Just take it down so everyone can eat the cake."
"You're no fun, Eiji. Hayato." He motioned for Chiba-san to come forward and with one swing of his wooden sword, the mistletoe was knocked down and snatched deftly out of the air by Joker-san's hand.
"I hope you're happy, ruining everyone's fun," he pouted as he handed the offending sprig to Sonoda-san. "You can make it up to me with a treat in the kitchen in a bit."
Sonoda-san gave him a strange look and without another word strode back to the kitchen. I wasn't sure, but I could have sworn his face was a little red. Cheers erupted as Joker-san left the table with Chiba-san to go find some fun elsewhere and someone jostled past me with a quick apology as the throng moved around me to get at the unguarded cake.
I'd get some myself in a minute, but I had gotten another idea. I hurried into the kitchen after Sonoda-san. He was such a professional, he had already gone back to peeling some fruit.
He looked up at the sound of the door opening. "Oh, Yuki-kun. What do you need? I'm kind of busy though."
"Sonoda-san, um... I just wanted to thank you for before." I looked around quickly, but didn't see it anywhere near Sonoda-san. "And, uh, do you need any help?"
"Trust me, it's nothing you have to thank me for." Sonoda-san made a little bit of a face and I couldn't quite get his expression. "Anyway, I don't really need any help, thanks."
Oh no, he couldn't chase me out already. "W, well, how about the trash! You have a lot of peels there, I could throw them out for you!"
Sonoda-san rolled his eyes at me and then sighed. "Whatever. Here. Just stay out of my hair."
Good, I'd have a little more time. I swept all the peels into a bowl and took it over to the big trashcan to empty it out. Just as I was about to dump the whole thing in, I spied the green leaves peeking out from under some paper. I glanced quickly over my shoulder to Sonoda-san, but he wasn't paying any attention, moodily working away. No one else was in the kitchen right now either. Just a quick grab and it would be mine with no one the wiser. There! I dumped the peels and returned the bowl. This time, it wasn't my imagination, Sonoda-san's face really was red. Was he allergic to one of the fruits maybe? Oh well, I had what I came for.
"Thanks for letting me help, Sonoda-san. I'll get out of your way now."
He waved me out of the kitchen with a muttered thanks.
I passed Joker-san on the way out of the kitchen and he greeted me cheerily. Wasn't he awfully happy for having his fun ruined? And even Chiba-san was acting kind of weird, hanging back in front of the kitchen door. Well, none of that mattered now, even though it would be a while before I could use my prize.
The rest of the party was fun but uneventful and by the end, I had gone back for cake at least three times. It had been every bit as delicious as it looked. Even Sonoda-san had reappeared at some point, looking far less tense. But I was still waiting. I had even volunteered to clean up the last of the mess and lock up the cafeteria when I was done. It had taken some doing, but I convinced Takato-san and Kuya-san that I didn't need any more help after we had all swept up, and they went off to the dorm without me. Eventually everyone left and I was finally alone.
"I thought you might still be here," came a familiar voice from behind.
I couldn't help breaking out in a smile. "Professor! You weren't supposed to come back yet though," I pouted slightly. "I was going to text you."
His smile echoed mine as he walked up to, arms opening to embrace me. He chuckled. "You know I wouldn't be able to wait the moment it was safe. It's Christmas, after all."
I wanted nothing but to be wrapped in those warm, strong arms, but I'd been waiting too long to have my moment ruined now.
"Wait, wait!" I stepped back, a reluctant hand out to stop him. "I'm almost ready, Professor!"
He stopped, looking a little confused as I grabbed a chair and climbed up on it. Luckily, there was still enough of the ribbon left hanging in front of the table to attach it. I plucked the mistletoe from my pocket and stood on my toes to tie it up. It looked a little... well, actually a lot... worse for wear, but it was the thought that counted, right? I climbed back down to admire my handiwork.
"Asahina! I can't believe you kept that!" The professor's gaze was warm and more amused than annoyed.
"Ehehehe, well, Joker-san was right. It is tradition. But I'd only ever want to kiss my special person."
"I hope that means me, unless there's something you're not telling me about," he teased as I moved the chair out of the way.
"Don't tease me, professor." But I couldn't really produce the frown that should have gone with it when my lover was around.
I stood up directly under the mistletoe, and closed my eyes expectantly. As expected, soft lips brushed my own, breathing words against me.
"Merry Christmas, Asahina."
"Merry Christmas, Professor Sakaki," I returned, reaching up to pull him toward me and as we embraced, our lips met in a sweet kiss, true to the spirit of the mistletoe.
~ end ~