Advent calendar, Christmas Eve

Merry Christmas Everyone~☆

24

Although most of the educational institutes in the region had their final day of the year on the 23rd, Mizuki’s university allowed the students to choose whether they wanted Christmas Eve off or not. Initially, he had planned on staying home, but after last night’s revelations, Mizuki decided to go on by after all, just for a short while. He told Settia he had something he needed to hand in, but the truth was that he needed to think. He felt guilty when he closed the door behind himself, and terrified that Settia would be gone when he came back.

When he got to their usual class room, Noel was already there, struggling with a massive pile of paper, which was supposedly his source material for his thesis.
“They fell out of my bag,” he moaned, “Can you believe it?  Everything is disarranged now. I’ll spend all of Christmas reorganizing them for sure.”
“Yeah, probably.” Mizuki replied, uninterested.
“Oi, what’s wrong?” Noel looked up from the chaos on his desk. “Christmas depression returning?”
“Leave it. Have you seen the Professor? I need to ask him a question.”
“Yeah I think he’s in his office, but he said something about leaving earlier today.”
“I’d better go catch him then,” Mizuki turned on his heel.
“Hey Miz,” Noel grabbed his shoulder. “Is this about that guy…Settia?”
“How do you know?”
Noel didn’t say anything, merely responding with a look of obviousness.
“Yeah he’s….” Mizuki didn’t know how to say it. “Leaving. I found out last night.”
“And you don’t want him to?”
He shook his head.
“Then tell him to stay.” Noel said, as if it was that simple. Mizuki sprinted out of the room and down the hall towards the faculty offices, almost crashing into the professor as he exited his office and was about to lock the door.
“Mizuki? I didn’t think I’d be seeing you again until next year?”
“Professor!” he wheezed. “About Poinsettia…!”
“Yes?” the man looked intrigued, “did you find out if there was a myth?”
“Yes! I mean, it’s not a myth but….Yeah. The human Poinsettia exists.” The words tumbled out of him, before he could organize them. Luckily, it didn’t faze the professor it seemed.
“And?”
“Well…” He hesitated. Why had he come here? What would his professor be able to tell him that he couldn’t have found in his book, or heard from a florist? “Poinsettia….How long does it last?”
“Hmm? You mean how long does it blossom?”
“I’m sure it was in the book but—“ Mizuki bit his lip.
“Usually, only until right over Christmas. Supposedly, they can last and bloom again with the right care but…”
“What happens after Christmas?”
“They wilt, usually. But you know, most people only see them as temporary decorations. They don’t need them all year around…”
“They’re not!” he had to restrain himself not shout.
“Mizuki?”
“No, it’s just… I’m sorry for holding you up, Professor. Thank you!” he rushed back down the hallway, towards the front exit.

Settia had said that he would only be able to stay until the next day at the longest, but surely that didn’t mean….?
He ran as fast as he could over the icy pavement, with the metallic taste of blood in his mouth, in the direction of the mall. The market outside by the parking lot was busier than he’d seen all month.
He looked wildly around, for the man with the cauldron and the candy canes. His heart skipped a beat when he spotted him and his table, over by an old carriage decorated with ribbons and full of what appeared to be wheat sheaves, dressed in the same costume as last time. “Hey! Santa!” he called out, feeling his cheeks flushing. Several heads had turned to look at this grown man yelling out to a man dressed up as Santa Claus.
“Mizuki,” the man replied, smiling in his beard, still with that same chuckle in his voice.  “Good to see you again!”
“You…” he swallowed, trying to catch his breath. “You know about Settia, don’t you?”
The old man’s eyes glinted behind his round glasses. He smiled. “That’s a lovely name.”
“Listen,” Mizuki didn’t care if the man was feigning innocence or not. “He says he has to leave by tomorrow. Why? You’re the one who…gave him to me. Can’t you let him…” his voice fell flat, he didn’t know how to express himself.  “Even if he only came to me for his mission…Does he really have to leave?”
He felt his cheeks growing warm. Why wasn’t the old man answering?
“Please. Say something? What happens after the 25th?”
“He came to me,” the man said. The sudden reply startled Mizuki slightly. “He told me about what you’ve been up to.  He’s proud of you.”
“So—“
“But some things even I can’t change,” he said, shaking his head. “You should hurry on home. I wish you both a Merry Christmas.”
“But-“
In the time it took Mizuki to blink, it was as if the man had vanished into thin air.
Something stung inside of Mizuki’s chest. He felt desperate. He needed to get home, back to Settia – Assuming he was still there.

***

“Settia!”
The red-haired man turned to look at Mizuki as he burst through the door, and into the room. Settia was at the kitchen counter, seemingly preparing food.
“Welcome home…?” he looked a little taken aback.
“You’re still here!” Mizuki kicked off his shoes, rushing over to throw his arms around Settia’s neck. Settia embraced him lovingly. “I’m still here…” he whispered into his hair, kissing the top of his head. “I’ll stay a little longer. Don’t worry.”
“Do you really have to leave..?”
“I think you know the answer to that…” Settia mumbled into his hair, squeezing him a little harder.
Mizuki choked back something like a sob. “What are you doing?” he muttered.
“I thought I’d cook us a Christmas dinner if you don’t mind?”
“I don’t think I can eat…”
“I’m sure you can. Let’s try to enjoy ourselves, okay?”
It didn’t sound convincing at all.

Still, Settia prepared a small feast for the two of them, and served it just in time for the bells to start tolling outside. They ate in relative silence.
“I…didn’t get you a present.” Mizuki heard himself say, looking down at his plate.
“Present?”
“I mean, with it being Christmas and all, I probably should’ve.”
“Mizuki. You don’t celebrate Christmas, and didn’t I tell you that-“
“I know that.” He stood, and took a step over to Settia, placing his hand on the man’s shoulder. “I want to give you a present, because I feel like you deserve it. Not because I feel like I should. You’ve taught me a lot over these past weeks and…” he swallowed.
Settia stood as well, looking him deep into the eyes.  “Silly,” he said, taking Mizuki’s hand and touching it to his own chest, “you gave me your heart.”
So he knew. Knew how much Mizuki’s heart ached and burned; how deeply he had fallen…
“Then…” Mizuki pleaded with him. “Won’t you stay?”
Settia leaned in, capturing his lips in a soft, sweet kiss. “God I wish I could…” he whispered, touching their foreheads together.
“Stay…”
“I can’t…”
“But…” Mizuki protested. “You’ve got magic, right? And that guy…he helped you before, didn’t he? Whether he’s Santa or Father Christmas or—“
“I told you before,” Settia said solemnly, “my magic doesn’t work like that. I didn’t turn myself human. I didn’t make the rules. And I can’t change this, much like I couldn’t make myself well before…”
“Settia,” Mizuki grabbed him by the hand, squeezing it harder than ever as a terrifying thought struck him: “My Professor said that…Poinsettias wilt over Christmas… What happens when the Star shines?”
Settia averted his eyes, glimmering with something entirely new.
“Settia!” he grabbed his shoulder with the other hand, shaking him. “When Poinsettia wilts…Do they die? You’re not going to d-“
“Ssh,” Settia touched one finger to Mizuki’s trembling lips. “Don’t say it. Look…”
He led Mizuki towards the window; it was already pitch black outside, the moon was out, illuminating the town in that same peculiar way it had all those days ago..
Settia lifted his finger towards the sky, pointing to a point above a tall building in the distance. “See that?”
Mizuki’s eyes fell on a star, larger and brighter than any he had ever seen. “The Christmas star…? But you’re still here!”
Settia pulled him close. “I will stay with you tonight.” He whispered. “I love you, Mizuki.”
Mizuki buried his head in Settia’s chest, inhaling his scent. “I love you…”

**TBC**

As you can see, there will be one more part. Tomorrow will be the final installment. I hope you’re all having a lovely Christmas Eve.

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