Poinsettia Guidepost

Almost two years too late, here is the guide post for my 2013 advent calendar: Poinsettia.
Thanks to everyone who read and enjoyed it way back when, and new readers; please enjoy, and feel free to leave comments~ ♡

Synopsis: Mizuki doesn’t celebrate Christmas, but then one December, during his foreign exchange year, he has a rather peculiar experience that makes him doubt everything, including his sanity and reluctance towards the holidays.

December 1st

December 2nd

December 3rd

December 4th

December 5th

December 6th

December 7th

December 8th

December 9th

December 10th

December 11th

December 12th

December 13th

December 14th

December 15th

December 16th

December 17th

December 18th

December 19th

December 20th

December 21st

December 22nd

December 23rd

December 24th

December 25th: Christmas Day [Final ]

Want more? Check out my 2012 Calendar: Winter Song

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Guidepost: Advent Calendar 2013: Poinsettia

For some time, I had wanted to write a story such as this one, inspired by one of my favorite BL-stories. The end result was this kind of quirky Advent Calendar. Unlike last year, there isn’t necessarily one part for each day in December: some were dragged out, some were literally skipped, but I posted 25 parts, so they’re titled accordingly.
It didn’t end up the way I had expected, but all the same, I became fond of it, and I came to love the two main characters. Thank you to those of you who followed this calendar to the end, and for any new readers or anyone who wants to re-read it, here is a guide to the 25 parts of the calendar:

December 1st 

December 2nd

December 3rd

December 4th

December 5th

December 6th

December 7th

December 8th

December 9th

December 10th

December 11th

December 12th

December 13th

December 14th

December 15th

December 16th

December 17th

December 18th

December 19th

December 20th

December 21st

December 22nd

December 23rd

Christmas Eve

Christmas day

Thank you so much for reading! 💕

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Advent Calendar, Christmas Day

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas Eve yesterday. To those celebrating today; I hope you’ll have a lovely celebration. Thank you for following this calendar of mine to the end. Here is the final part.

25

They had stayed up for hours, watching the light of the Star outside. Naked, they had stayed in bed together, awaiting the time of separation, without voicing it out loud. Settia had told him not to think about it, not to let it ruin anything, so Mizuki had grit his teeth, and given himself over to soft kisses, warm embraces, ripples of honest, happy laughter, and endless supplies of sweets and sweet words alike. When they fell asleep in each other’s arms, Mizuki had managed to push aside the dread and sorrow. Yet, he’d awoken in the middle of the night, fearful. He’d grabbed a pen, and jotted down his feelings, doubts and realizations, but more importantly, his thanks. The note he’d stuck in an envelope, which he sealed with tape, before writing Settia’s name on it. Afterwards, he’d gone back to sleep, nuzzling close to the man he had yet to understand to the fullest.
Time was running out, he knew it.

***

When he woke up, it was Christmas day. Something felt different. There was a chill in the room, and he immediately felt worried, sitting upright to check if Settia—
The spot next to him was empty. The reason he felt cold was because he was alone.
Mizuki pulled the covers tightly around himself, and touched upon the solitude that washed over him.
“You didn’t even say goodbye..?” he said quietly.
It had only been nineteen days since they met. For nineteen days, Settia had been in his life. And in that short amount of time, he had managed to change so many things. But the mystery still remained.
Mizuki didn’t know what to believe, if it had all been a dream or…
There was glitter on the pillow, he noticed, and on his own skin. Something twinkled over by the table. He wrapped the sheet around himself like a robe, and stood from the bed.
A note, scribbled in neat handwriting, glitter glinting towards him from the paper, and the ink itself.
“Since you don’t have a fire place, I put the stocking on the radiator.”
He looked towards the space heater, and found a large, red stocking. Reaching inside, he found candies, and tons of photos. Of the two of them, from last night; of them smiling, kissing, making faces…
He plopped down on the floor, browsing each and every one, trying to figure out how Settia had managed to print them. It was true they had taken photos, but that had been with a disposable camera.
He turned the photos over. Messages were scribbled all over the back sides: “Memories”, “Hey look, magic?”, “Thank you”, “I love you”.
Mizuki swallowed hard.
He dug into the stocking again, and pulled out a note. It seemed to have been written in a hurry.
“Dearest Mizuki. Thank you for everything. Thank you for accepting me into your life, and for helping me with my mission. You’re wonderful, don’t ever forget that. The greatest gift I could ever receive is to have spent this time with you. So thank you, once again. I love you.
– Settia.”

His eyes burned. Hastily, Mizuki dried them with the back of his hand. He missed him so much already. And yet… there was a strange calm inside of him.
His eyes fell on the table again. He realized the letter he had written in the middle of the night was missing. Something that looked like red petals was scattered on the tabletop; their scent rose towards him as he scooted closer. The ceramic pot was standing there, but it wasn’t empty. It was full of soil, and he realized there was something growing in it; a plant which seemed to be all stem, no petals or leaves.
And then he noticed that the encyclopedia about the flowers was open, seemingly turned to a random page, but with Settia’s red ribbon; the one he had worn that first night, draped as a bookmark across the pages. He peered over the book, and read out loud:
‘With care, the poinsettia can be induced to reflower after the initial display seen when purchased. Prune the plant of its colorful leaves, keep it in a moderately lit place, minimal watering and well-drained soil. The oldest known Poinsettia lived for 20 years…’
He took the ribbon between his fingers, and pressed it to his chest, where his heart pounded agitatedly.
“Thank you…” he whispered, leading the silk to his lips, kissing it softly.

~終~

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.

Advent Calendar, part 23

23

Settia was warm next to him, his scent strong, and his colors vivid, as if he was blossoming. Mizuki curled up even closer to him, waiting with dread for his alarm to ring, announcing the start of a new Monday. He’d woken up earlier than usual, despite getting so little sleep, and lay regarding the other man, whose arms were tucked safely around Mizuki. The same arms that had felt so strong the night before, muscles tensing beneath his rubicund, tan skin, which felt hot against his own, as he enveloped him with kisses and the weight of his body on top of Mizuki’s.  It felt like a dream, much like large portions of this strange December. But the feelings coursing through him were real. He didn’t want to get up.
His alarm rang, stirring Settia from his sleep as well as Mizuki reached out towards the table, turning the alarm off without making any effort to get out of bed.
“Aren’t you getting up..?” Settia drawled. It was kind of cute how he seemed to have relinquished that morning-person act of his.
“Don’t wanna…” Mizuki replied, kissing him on the shoulder. “I thought I’d skip today…”
“You really shouldn’t do that…” Settia murmured.
“I know,” Mizuki groaned. “But it’s so warm in here, and you’re so…” He felt Settia’s arms squeezing him tightly. “It’s cold out there you know…”
“But baby it’s cold outside…” Settia hummed at his side.
“Dork,” Mizuki nudged him.
“Mhmm,” the other man laughed softly. “You know, maybe you should take the day off.”
“Yeah,” Mizuki yawned, “Taking Christmas break early sounds lovely…”
“Christmas break?”
Mizuki looked away, stubbornly. “That’s what it is, no matter if you celebrate or not,” he defended himself.
“Whatever you say.” Settia grinned. “C’mere…”

They stayed in bed, nodding off for a few more hours. Settia was the first one to awaken this time around. He gently nudged Mizuki, waking him up as well.
“Mizuki…” he said, “Wake up.”
“Nnh..?” Confused, Mizuki sat up, feeling a slight pang of guilt, as he realized it was almost ten, and he should’ve been in history class.
“I was thinking…”
“What?”
“I want to go to church.”
“Uh…?”
Mizuki didn’t think of himself as particularly religious. Sure, he followed the Shinto customs, like the rest of his family, but it was more a ritual thing than a spiritual connection for him. Still, it hadn’t crossed his mind that Settia might have a different standing. “Are you religious?” he asked, looking sleepily at the redhead at his side.
“Of course not,” Settia grinned. “I’m a plant, remember?”
“You won’t stop with that, will you?” Mizuki laughed quietly. “Okay, so I’m curious. Why do you wanna go to church?”
“Many people go during Christmas,” Settia said. “It’s tradition.”
“Yeah, on Christmas Eve.”
“Well, there’s a children’s choir performing today,” Settia said, with a look on his face that could only be described as gleeful.
“Alright. We’ll go.” Mizuki said resolutely.
“Really?”
Mizuki stroked his hand along Settia’s upper arm. “Yeah. Clearly I can no longer say no to you.”
“Heh,” Settia kissed him atop the head. “Maybe. It starts at eleven though. So we should get going.”
“Eleven?” Mizuki exclaimed. “You sure are relaxed, aren’t you?”
He rose from the bed, hurrying to grab a shower and a bite to eat before going anywhere at all.

A rough hour later, they found themselves outside the local church; small in stature, charming with its grey bricks and red roof tiles. There were people assembled on the parking lot outside, waiting for the doors to open so they could be let in to the service. Mizuki assumed they were mostly relatives of the children performing during the mass, but there were probably regular church-goers as well, even if it was a Monday. He’d never been to a church before, and felt a slight tinge of anxiety at the thought. Particularly because Settia had taken his hand again, and he didn’t know how much that would be approved of in this place. Settia didn’t seem to mind though, as he led Mizuki through the large, oak doors when they were opened, smiling at the person greeting them at the entrance.
The room was painted in white, with rows of benches on each side of a red carped stretching towards the altar, where a large cross was nailed to the wall. The colors were subdued hues of red and white, candles burning by the pulpit. The roof was highly domed. The atmosphere in itself seemed to be electric, seeping from the two first rows, where a class of excited and anxious elementary school students were sitting, chatting nervously with hushed voices.

The service itself didn’t give him much. There were psalms, some students coming up to read about the birth of Christ and the minister giving a short sermon, before the kids were allowed to perform a short Christmas play, full of well-known carols. Though he wasn’t sure he got much out of it, Mizuki appreciated being there, somehow. The kids were clever too; he had to admit, even though some of them stumbled over their lines during the play. Settia seemed utterly enticed though, and that was what he had noticed more than anything; how those green eyes gleamed, and how he clapped enthusiastically at the end of the performance.

Afterwards, they were on their way out, when an elderly woman came over to them. She seemed to belong with a group of seniors that were chatting happily over by the altar.
“I just wanted to say,” she started, without even greeting them first. “That it’s lovely to see two young, strapping lads like yourselves attending the service. That’s so rare these days!”
“Is it?” Settie tilted his head to the side. “I really enjoyed it though.”
It was easy to see that she was charmed by him.
“That’s lovely to hear dear. Now, this might come as an abrupt invite, but would you like to join us all for coffee downstairs? We’re always having coffee after the service, but it’s been so long since we were joined by some young, interesting people!”
Surprised by his own initiative, Mizuki heard himself answering; “We’d love to.”
In the corner of his eye, he saw Settia light up, nodding vigorously. “Absolutely! Lead the way!”

They followed the group down a narrow staircase, which was so steep Mizuki was amazed at these elderly people being able to get down at all. The room in the basement was spacious and cozy, with tables already set, and decorated with candles, red tablecloths and Poinsettias in the middle. Mizuki nudged Settia, smiling slightly.
They joined the woman and her companions at the larger of the tables, and introduced themselves. After the mandatory round of questions about where they were from, and what they studied, compliments on their English – they seemed to assume Settia was a foreigner as well, probably because of his name, the talk came to be about Christmas. The old folks were lively, discussing everything from how many different types of baked goods they had stuffed in their cupboards, to what their grandkids were getting for Christmas – and then they started jogging down memory lane. Rather than being filled with irritation at the never-ending conversational topic, Mizuki listened carefully to tales of Christmas in the olden days; of kids shooed to bed while parents decorated the trees, of stockings filled with almonds and oranges, gifts being few and appreciated. He listened to them talk about the luxury of getting dolls or books, and about candles on the tree instead of electric lights. Their stories were so detailed, so vivid, he could almost smell the food they described, and feel the excitement that they had felt as children, on this day once a year when they were the center of attention, and everything was so mysterious and sacred. Finally, one of the elderly men slapped his knees and said; “But one thing that hasn’t changed, is the importance of family. What good are presents, food and a tree if you don’t have your loved ones near you? That’s what it was about back then, and that’s what it’s about now.”
“So true!” said a woman, “When I told my grandson I might not be up for travelling by rail this Christmas he told me that if I didn’t join them for dinner, then Christmas might as well could’ve been cancelled for all he cared!”
They all laughed, and agreed that her grandson was “a delightful little rascal”.
Mizuki sipped at his coffee, smiling. He felt Settia’s hand taking his underneath the table.

***

“I really liked those old people,” he told Settia when they came back later that afternoon. “They were all really spirited, weren’t they?”
“Indeed.” Settia agreed, removing his shoes and making his way into the main room, sitting down on the bed.
“They certainly had a point,” Mizuki continued, joining him. “About spending Christmas with a loved one. I mean…. I still don’t get it, and I don’t really care but… I think I’d be lonely tomorrow if I didn’t have you here.”
Settia grabbed him by the neck, and tilted his head forwards, kissing the back of his head. “I’ll be here…tomorrow.”
There was a slight hesitation in his voice.
“Settia..?”
“Mizuki, there’s something… I didn’t tell you yesterday.”
Not now. Mizuki’s heart froze. Not after last night, and these past few hours which had been so delightful.
“You know that I’m here for a reason, but the thing is…My mission has a time limit…”
“Time limit?” he repeated, feeling his face drain of color. “Does that mean you’re…leaving?”
“Unfortunately, I can only stay until the real Christmas Star shines…” Settia looked down at his feet, as if he was ashamed of not having mentioned this earlier. Mizuki felt cold.
“But…” his voice broke. “You just came… Why can’t you stay?”
“I guess… the easiest way to explain it is still kind of complex…” Settia sighed, looking up at him. His eyes seemed to be slightly glazed over. This was hard for him, Mizuki understood that. “I guess you could say that when the Star shines, the magic runs out and I’m a pumpkin again?”
“But you have magic!”
“Not like that,” Settia shook his head. “When my time’s up, I need to go.”
“How much time do we have…?” Mizuki wondered out loud, without really wanting to know the answer.
“Until the 25th. Tops.”
Mizuki felt something convulse inside of him. He said nothing, but threw his arms around Settia’s neck, and clung to him, feeling as if everything that had been good about today was swept away from him in one cruel motion.
Outside he heard children singing a Christmas song. He wished they would shut up.

**TBC**

Advent Calendar, part 22

A little late today, because I decided to sleep until noon. Sorry for keeping you waiting~

22

“Can’t sleep?”
Mizuki stirred. He hadn’t been aware Settia was still awake. Although he had wanted to continue their discussion, it was as if the courage had left him once they got back home. Instead, they had sat in silence for most of the night. Mizuki had done some reading and taken a few notes for his thesis, before going to bed early. Now it was past midnight, and he still couldn’t sleep.
“What about you?” he didn’t turn around. They were lying back to back. They hadn’t even done that on the first night they’d been in bed together. It felt strange and unfamiliar, like there was an invisible wall between them.
“No, I can’t.” Settia’s voice was quiet. “Mizuki…? Turn around?”
He sighed, and then turned over on his side, supporting himself on his elbow. “Can we talk?”
“Yeah,” Settia nodded. “We can talk. I think it’s time.”
Silence fell between them. Mizuki didn’t know what to say, not really. He had gone from being utterly confused, to just going along with whatever was happening, quietly accepting whatever was happening. Now he didn’t know what to feel.
“I didn’t mean to hurt you…” Settia started.
“I know that you didn’t. I just… it’s hard to understand you know? You’re always so secretive.” His voice was a low whisper, fading out at the end of the statement.
“I know… I was meaning to tell you earlier, but it’s difficult. After all, you don’t believe in me.”
“I don’t…know?”
“What I came here for,” Settia continued, “was to show you all the good things this season has to offer. I wanted you to see that there’s good in people, that there’s gratitude, and a will to reach out to others. I wanted you to see that Christmas is magical, even if you don’t believe in it.”
“Why me?” Mizuki countered. “There are many others just like me. So why me? And how did you even find me? Don’t tell me that that man was—“
Something glinted deep in Settia’s emerald eyes. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
“What about the decorations at the Soup Kitchen? The old lady said that she couldn’t remember having that much stored away..?”
Settia smiled secretively.
“That was you…? But how? I was watching you all the time, so unless you…. But there’s no such thing as magic!”
Mizuki felt like his nerves were getting slightly frazzled. They had agreed to talk, but he didn’t feel like he was getting any more clarity. Settia was being vague, and he wasn’t exactly pressing too hard himself. Maybe he was worried about the answers.
“Christmas,” Settia said again. “Is magical.”
“What. You’re honestly telling me that the old guy in the costume was the real Santa?” Mizuki shook his head. “He knew my name but— It’s impossible.”
Settia continued to regard him silently.
“And you? Where did you come from? Has it occurred to you how crazy it is for me to….That I allowed a complete stranger to stay with me after breaking into my house?”
“Mizuki,” Settia reached out a slender hand, tugging at his hair in a teasing manner. “Has it occurred to you that I may have been telling the truth all along? That maybe I am an enchanted Prince, sent to you by Santa?”
He was playing on what Mizuki had said when they put up the gingerbread house.
Mizuki glowered. “Are you?”
“No,” Settia snickered. “I’m a plant.”
Are you though?”
Settia nodded. “Yes. Regardless of what you believe, I am Poinsettia, the Christmas Flower.”
It did make sense…. Settia’s colors, the scent, the way the remedy had worked, the way his hair seemed to perk up whenever he drank water… But it was too far-fetched. His logic was protesting vehemently.
“How can you be..?” he mumbled. “How can you be a plant, and yet so…”
He looked up, their gazes meeting. “So amazing?”
“So you think I am?” Settia honestly looked surprised. “Even after what I did?”
“You haven’t done anything wrong.” Mizuki admitted. “It’s true that you’ve shown me things I didn’t know about. Your very existence is apparently beyond me, but… I didn’t mean to get angry. Actually, I’m sorry. You’ve shown me this amazing warmth and kindness, and I’ve been…”
He paused, looking for the words. “A real Scrooge.”
“No you haven’t.” Settia cooed, placing his hand on Mizuki’s upper arm, beckoning for him to come closer. “You’ve been so open-minded, and so sweet… I’m really proud of you.”
“I’m sure you are,” Mizuki failed to hold back a wry smile, “Now that I’ve virtually blown off a month’s worth of school work?”
“Silly,” Settia smirked.
“Are you making fun of me..?” Mizuki tugged at the other man’s hoodie, pulling on the strings to the hood.
“I’d never dream of it.”
“Maybe we should try dreaming..?” Mizuki replied softly.
“Maybe.” Settia agreed. “Unless you’re still mad?”
“It doesn’t matter,” he replied, shaking his head. “It was all good when I was just going with the flow. Let’s just stick with that, okay?”
“Alright,” Settia nodded. His hand wandered down Mizuki’s arm, finding his hand. Their fingers entwined. Settia led their clasped hands up to his mouth, and kissed Mizuki’s hand gently.

It really didn’t matter, Mizuki thought. Christmas was three days away, and although he had been more actively involved in the season than ever before, he had never felt less bothered by it. The reason was the man next to him, holding his hand. Regardless of who this man claimed to be, or what his true form was… Mizuki was beginning to realize how he felt about him.

He scooted closer, heart beating hard in his chest, his hand still held Settia’s.
“This is so strange…” he whispered. “I don’t even know what you…what we are.”
“Does it matter?” Settia replied, nuzzling in against him, his nose burrowing into stray tousles of dark hair.
“You’re not human…” Mizuki mumbled, “and still I’m…”
The hand holding his lead his palm downwards, pressing it against Settia’s chest. Beneath the hooded sweater, and the man’s warm skin, he could feel distinct heartbeats.
Settia leaned in, capturing Mizuki’s lips with his own, kissing him in a far more demanding and possessive way than ever before.
“I’m human now.” He whispered, breaking the kiss.
Mizuki nodded, wrapping his arms around him, and accepting the next meeting of their lips, and the tingles shooting through his body. Sleep didn’t seem as important anymore, nor did anything else.

**TBC**

Advent Calendar, part 21

 

21

Although Mizuki felt worried about being outside for too long, Settia hadn’t been able to convince him entirely that he was okay. Not after how sick he had been. When they went to bed that night, he had been relieved that Settia’s skin was warm against his own, and that his breath was rhythmic and regular. He’d crept even closer to him, and fallen asleep, inhaling that peculiar scent of his.

When he awoke on Saturday, it was already past noon. Settia was awake, but not up it seemed. He lay beside him, just gazing at him. Mizuki blinked a couple of times as he came to, yawning.
“What are you looking at?” he mumbled.
“You. I want to remember you like this.”
“What, sleeping? I’m probably drooling and everything…” He wiped the corner of his mouth with the back of his hand. “What do you mean by that anyway?”
“You look cute, Mizuki.”
As usual, he was cryptic. Mizuki didn’t pursue it. He noticed that he was feeling more refreshed than he had in a long time. Yawning again, he asked. “You been up long?”
Settia shrugged. “A while.”
Mizuki rolled over on his back, gazing up at the ceiling, keeping half an eye on Settia, sitting upright next to him. “So, what are we doing today?”
“Are we doing something today?”
“Aren’t we?” he could hear the disappointment in his own voice. He had gotten so used to these antics of Settia’s – no day being like the next, and all these new impulses he had been subjected to. He felt warm at the thought of the night before, skin budding beneath the covers at the thought of pale lights, cool air and Settia’s arms around his waist.
“What do you want to do, Mizuki?”
“Uh…” he didn’t know what to say. He had just taken for granted that he wouldn’t be the one to think of something to do.  “I don’t know what there is to do?”
To be honest, he was thinking that he wouldn’t mind staying with Settia like this all day, but he didn’t voice that thought out loud.
“Hang on,” Settia stood from the bed, looking rather peculiar with his hoodie, barely covering his underwear, and woolen socks that went way up towards his knee. He picked up Mizuki’s laptop and brought it back to bed, starting it up and looking up a search engine.
“Let’s see what’s happening in the world, shall we?” he smiled, moving closer to Mizuki, typing away on the keyboard.

In the end, it was decided that they were going to go to a nearby school, where the students were putting up a play. Mizuki was a bit skeptical towards going to a showing of “A Christmas Carol,” but considering it was free, and Settia seemed really keen on it, he agreed.  By the time both acts were over, he had to admit that the students were impressive, especially the younger ones.
They walked home afterwards, hand in hand beneath rows and rows of pine and tinsel garlands strung between the buildings in town.
“Noel calls me Scrooge,” he said, smiling slightly.
“He does?” Settia arched an eyebrow, but didn’t look very surprised at all.
“Don’t pretend you’re surprised.” Mizuki nudged him hard in the ribs through his coat. “Like you didn’t bring me to the play with some kind of ulterior motive?”
Settia stopped short in his tracks, grabbing Mizuki by both hands and stared at him, green orbs digging into Mizuki’s with an intensity he’d never before experienced.
“I didn’t.  Mizuki, whatever change you’ve gone through this December…. You’ve done that work yourself.”
He was squeezing Mizuki’s hands hard in his own.
“Changes..?”
It dawned on him. “This mission of yours…?”
“I never meant to impose, or force you into anything… I just wanted you to see that there was more to Christmas than just consumerism and stress.”
“But I told you that I-“ he wrung his hands from Settia’s grip. “Didn’t I tell you that I don’t celebrate it?”
He felt sort of cheated. Sort of upset all of a sudden, that everything they had done together was apparently in order to force traditions he didn’t celebrate onto him?
“I didn’t want you to think that I came here to make you celebrate Christmas.”
“Then why did you?”
The tone had changed between them.
“My mission was to lighten your spirits, and make you see the good things, not only about the season, but in people themselves…”
“And you did that by lying to me?”
“I never lied!” Settia grabbed his arm, pulling Mizuki towards himself. “I didn’t know how to tell you. And I really wanted to do was to help you out, like I said.”
“I still don’t understand what you mean by that…”
“I wanted you to see the beauty of everything. The season and the people and traditions and all.”
Mizuki still felt conflicted. Wasn’t that basically the same thing? But the look in Settia’s eyes said something else. The other man seemed to be pleading with him.
“I love you, Mizuki. For you, for being so kind to me, and for being this amazing person who’s been stepping out of your comfort zone to be there for others…”
Mizuki swallowed. He wanted to argue. He’d gone along with those things because he didn’t have much choice. But he had chosen to do so, on his own accord. He had learned and grown through some of these experiences, and thoroughly enjoyed them all. His anger subsided as fast as it had arisen, his mind calming down a little.
He still had so many questions.
With a deep sigh, he placed a gentle hand on Settia’s cheek, leaning in to kiss him softly. “Let us go home.”
He wanted to believe him.

**TBC**

Advent Calendar, part 20

 

20

“Thank god it’s Friday!”  Noel exclaimed, throwing  his arms up into the air as the two of them came out of the university building.
“What, you’re hungry?” Mizuki chuckled.
“No, I meant that quite literally. I’m so glad it’s Friday. I don’t want to do anything this weekend but laze about.”
“Sounds good,” Mizuki agreed. Their classes had dragged on today, seemingly lasting forever and being much harder than usual. They were stepping up the pace, readying for the exams come January. It was already beginning to get dark out when they emerged from their last class.
“What about you? Got any plans?”
“Not really…” Mizuki was wondering about that. After last weekend, he was certain Settia would be ready to ambush him in one way or other.
Something like anxious excitement budded inside of him. He had really enjoyed what they had been doing last weekend, though it had been hard to go back home and carry on afterwards.
“Mizuki!” he was snapped out of his thoughts by a voice calling out to him from the other end of the snow covered lawn.
“S-Settia?!”
“Who?”  Noel looked confused.
“My friend, the one I told you about.”
“Oh,” Noel’s lip curved upwards. “Where’s he from anyway? His name is—“
Mizuki ignored the question, upping his pace as he strode through the snow, towards the redhead, waving excitedly at him. Noel followed suit.
“Settia!” he finally reached where the other man was standing. “What are you doing here? You shouldn’t be out in the cold!”
“I’m fine!” Settia gesticulated towards the huge scarf wrapped around his neck and shoulders, the earmuffs and gloves he was wearing. “I dug through your closet. It’s fine. I feel pretty warm actually.”
“You were really sick you know…” Mizuki muttered, looking down at his boots, feeling silly for having this discussion in front of Noel.
“I’m fine now. Thanks to you.”
Mizuki sputtered, flushing furiously, and avoided his friend’s gaze as best he could. “Nevermind! What are you doing here?”
“I wanted to see you.”
There was no stopping him Mizuki realized.
“I guess I’ll leave you two alone?” Noel nudged Mizuki in the ribs. “Have fun.”
“You don’t have to—“
“It’s fine. He came here to see you after all. See you Monday!” Noel waved at the two of them, making his way off across the lawn again.
“I didn’t mean to chase him off.” Settia said apologetically.
“Don’t mind him,” Mizuki shrugged. “He thinks that we’re-“
He stopped himself.
“That we’re?”
Mizuki bit his lip. His face felt hot in the cool air. It had happened again yesterday:  The meeting of their lips, the tenderness that seeped out and enveloped them.
“Are we..?”
Settia placed his arm around Mizuki’s shoulder, leading him away from campus. “Come,” he said. “We have things to do.”
“What are we doing?” Settia’s arm was warm on his shoulder, but he still worried about him. Settia shouldn’t be out in the cold.
“I just want to show you something. Walk with me.”

They walked a couple of blocks, almost without talking. All the while, Settia’s arm rested on Mizuki’s shoulders. They walked closely together on the crowded sidewalk as they came into a more central part of the city. People glanced at them, but Settia didn’t seem to notice, and so Mizuki didn’t bother with it either. He felt safe, and somehow relaxed. Settia still felt warm, although his cheeks were flushing in the chilly air.
They came to a park, in the outskirts of a shopping district. There were a lot of people coming to and fro, but unlike the rest of the area, there wasn’t much illumination. Mizuki spotted some wooden structures here and there, probably sales booths he figured. They couldn’t very well be very selling much when there were no lights or signs of any kind anywhere.
Settia stopped in the middle of the open field. “Here we are,” he said.
“Here? What’s to see here?”
“Just wait,” Settia said patiently.
They waited for what seemed like ages. Mizuki was starting to feel cold from standing still so long, and kept stamping his feet.
“Are you cold?”
Settia didn’t even wait for his response before coming up behind Mizuki, wrapping his arms around him, and resting his head on Mizuki’s shoulder. “Better?”
“Mmh.” He answered softly, gripping the hands on that were pressed against his stomach.
“It should be just about….Now.”
And as soon as Settia had uttered those words, the entire park lit up in hues of gold, silver and blue; lights were everywhere, illuminating what seemed to be an entire, authentic village, with all kinds of sales stands, activities and decorations. Further out on the field, an ice skating rink seemed to have appeared out of nowhere. Bells were sounding from somewhere, and Mizuki realized a sleigh, pulled by a magnificent white horse was approaching, torches lit in the front, leading the way for a procession of adults and children, dressed in Santa hats, holding candles and torches.
They came to stand next to the sleigh when it came to a stop, and a man who was dressed like someone out of a Dickens novel came out.
“I want to welcome you all-“ he started, and Mizuki realized the crowd around them had thickened. “To the opening of our Christmas market, which will be open until New Year’s Eve.”
His voice drowned in the noise of cheers and claps, but Mizuki managed to understand enough to make out that the people with the lights were a choir, and that they were to mark the opening by performing.
“How did you know…?” he whispered.
“I have my ways.” Settia whispered back, his lips brushing the shell of Mizuki’s ear, pulling him even closer against himself.
The lights, and the songs, the atmosphere and the snow creaking beneath their feet… It was like something out of a film, but there was nothing fake or manufactured about it. Mizuki stared and stared, eyes wide, glowing in the dark. Settia held him tight.
He didn’t know what was what anymore. But he wanted to stay like this.
“It’s like magic…” he whispered, clutching Settia’s glove clad hand.
“Christmas is magical.” Settia whispered back, smiling.

**TBC**

Advent calendar, part 18

 

18

Slowly, Mizuki stirred awake. The light streaming in from the window revealed that it was already morning, maybe even early afternoon.
I overslept. He groaned.
“Mmh?” Settia’s voice split the silence.
Everything came back to him. Mizuki turned his gaze worriedly to the other man. “You’re awake? How are you feeling?”
“Better,” Settia replied hoarsely. “Throat is dry though.”
“Here,” Mizuki reached out for the half-full glass on the table by the bed. This time, Settia took it, and drank by himself. It seemed some of his strength had returned. Relief washed through the student.
“By the way, haven’t you overslept?” Settia glanced at the clock.
“Yeah. I guess I did.”
“Aren’t you going..?”
“No, I…” he felt his face turning scarlet. “I don’t want to leave you again. I should have noticed yesterday that-“
“Give it a rest,” Settia pushed himself off his elbows, sitting up. “You’ve done everything right. I’m fine now.”
That was a lie. He still looked pale and fatigued.
“Go to uni,” Settia urged. “It’s only for a few hours. I’ll probably sleep most of the day anyway.”
Mizuki felt insecure. “Are you sure?”
“I’m sure. Thanks for being so concerned though.”
“Noel is gonna have a field day…” Mizuki reluctantly stood from the bed.
“Hm? Noel?”
“He’s a friend from uni.”
“His name means-“
“Yeah I know. I thought you’d like that.” Mizuki gave half a smile. “Sure you’ll be fine?”
Yes,” Settia sighed. “Get dressed already.”

***

As expected, Noel had teased him about being late. He’d also insinuated that it had something to do with the friend Mizuki had mentioned earlier. When he had enquired why on earth Noel would assume something like that – with burning cheeks no less, his friend had simply replied “You look a lot happier lately.”
Maybe that was true? His disposition had probably changed a lot of the past two weeks, much thanks to Settia’s appearance. It was odd, how close they had gotten. Somehow, it didn’t feel real.
As he walked home that afternoon, Mizuki mused over recent events, and how he didn’t feel as stressed anymore, not about his thesis, although he probably should be. And strangest of all; how little the hustle and bustle of December irritated him lately, maybe because he was far too preoccupied with his own personal mystery. It was cold out, so he was careful when he reached the door, only opening it to a slight minimum, to make sure he didn’t let out too much heat as he slipped inside.
“I’m home.” He said softly, placing his bag on the floor, hanging off his coat in the hall and walking into the room where Settia was still in bed. He looked better though. The color of his hair was brighter, the spikes not as flat. His skin wasn’t as pale either.
“Welcome back.” Settia greeted him, sitting up in bed, smiling. “You look cold.”
“I am. It’s pretty cold again today. Slippery too.”
Settia pulled aside the covers, scooting over towards the wall. “Come on then, get in.”
Mizuki hesitated – he had wanted to start dinner, but found himself lurking over to the other man after all, getting in next to him. It felt way intimate, even though he was fully dressed. Settia’s warmth radiated against him when their hips touched under the cover.
“You had a good day?” Settia asked, tilting his head slightly so it rested against Mizuki’s.
“Myeah, all things considered.”
“How was Noel?”
Mizuki snorted. “As expected. And you?”
“Much better now,” Settia assured him. “That thing you put in the water really helped I think.”
That was the cue he needed. Mizuki took a sharp breath, and inhaled a pine-like scent; Settias’ scent. “About that….The florist said it was a remedy for sick plants…”
“Yeah?” Laughter seemed to bubble underneath the surface as Settia responded.
“So, does that mean…. Are you really telling the truth?”
“About?”
“You know!” Mizuki had a hard time voicing the words out loud. “Are you really….A plant?”
Settia laughed for real this time. A soft chortle escaped his lips, still chapped. Mizuki reached out, brushing his fingertips gently over them, and onwards, up his cheek bone. Compared to the dry lips, Settia’s skin was soft, smooth to the touch, but it felt very thin, brittle somehow.
“Yesterday,” Settia said, his voice falling a slight notch, “You were afraid for me, weren’t you? What was that you said..?”
“That…cold can kill plants…”  Mizuki turned his gaze away.
“Yes. So perhaps you already know the answer to your question.”
“Is that a confirmation? Are you really Poinsettia? “
“What do you think?”
He was teasing.
“Augh, you’re so….” Mizuki grumbled. He turned to look at him; at this mystery person at his side, only inches away.
“It doesn’t matter. I’m human now.”
Their faces were awfully close together. His hand was still resting on Settia’s jawline.
“Poinsettia….” He started. “Is poisonous…Isn’t it?”
“A little bit.”
His breath was warm on Mizuki’s skin.
“…you too?”
“Want to find out?” Settia countered, his lips curving slightly upwards as he touched them to Mizuki’s own.

**TBC**

Advent Calendar, part 17

17

It was the bathroom window, he was sure of it. It had been left open, and since the bathroom door had been left open in order to air out the stuffy space, the chill had crept into every nook of the apartment.
Settia’s lips moved; they were chapped and dry, and almost as pale as his face.
“Mi…zu..ki?” Settia’s green eyes seemed to be swimming beneath his heavy eyelids.
“Hey,” Mizuki swallowed. “What happened to you..? Are you sick?”
Settia just smiled weakly.
“It’s because of the cold, isn’t it? Why didn’t you close the window?”
There was no response. It seemed like Settia had drifted off again. Rushing to his feet, Mizuki ran into the bathroom, shutting the window and slamming shut the door as well, trying to prevent the room from getting colder at least.
Worry weighed him down. Assuming that Settia was telling the truth, he couldn’t call a doctor. What was he supposed to say? And in any case, he didn’t have the money to pay for a doctor to come to the house. Resolutely, he grabbed for the book his professor had recommended, and searched the pages frantically.
From what he could find in his stressed out state,  Settia was most likely suffering from some kind of hypothermia, or the floral version of it anyway. It seemed like Poinsettias were sensitive to temperature changes, but that heat and moisture was a way to counter the damage.
“Settia?” he whispered, leaning in, still with the compendium in his lap. “I’m gonna go out for a bit, and pick up something for you. Come…”
He didn’t think that it would be good for him to stay on the futon on the cold floor, so he hoisted Settia’s limp form into his arms, and somehow managed to get him onto the bed, wrapping the covers tightly around him. Getting a glass of water from the kitchen, he supported Settia’s head and held the glass to his lips. “Here. Drink.”
Without opening his eyes, Settia drank a couple of sips and then fell back on the pillow.
“Stay here okay? I’ll be right back!”

Mizuki threw on his coat and boots, grabbing his keys and wallet in one swift motion, hastening outside, almost slipping on the icy stairs.

When he returned, it was with a big package under one arm, and a small plastic bag in the other. He’d stopped by a flower shop to ask for some advice, and received some kind of remedy that should be mixed into the water. “A cold remedy for plants.” The cashier had called it. Mizuki chose to trust her. The package contained a space heater, which he immediately plugged in and set to moderate heat, placing it next to the bed, where Settia lay. He mixed some of the powder from the florist into the glass already on the table, and shook the redhead gently.
“Sorry to wake you,” he smiled apologetically. “How do you feel?”
Settia shook his head listlessly.
“Drink this, it should help. I bought a space heater as well, but tell me if it gets too hot. I don’t want to make you feel worse…” he sat on the bedside, helping Settia with the glass, accepting it back once it was half empty, and Settia lowered himself back down onto the mattress.
“I’m so sorry,” he murmured, brushing his fingers absentmindedly through Settia’s hair. “I didn’t mean to forget about the window… And I knew you were cold earlier as well…”
“Don’t feel bad…” Settia’s voice was a low whisper. He gazed dully up at Mizuki.
“It’s just…” fear gripped him before he had even said the words out loud; “Cold can….kill plants, can’t it?”
“You’re good to me,” Settia repeated quietly. “I’ll be fine, Mizuki.”
He patted the mattress next to himself. “Come. Don’t be afraid.”
Mizuki lay down next to him. He allowed for Settia to nuzzle close to him, desperate to share some of his own heat, perhaps to quench his guilt. Or was it something else?
Somehow, it felt like Settia was the one comforting him again. He was breathing somewhat irregularly still, and he was still cold, despite the two of them being tightly enveloped beneath the covers.
“Did you really buy me a gingerbread house?” Settia asked, his voice strained and somewhat muffled by the pillow.
“Ssh, you should rest.” Mizuki whispered back. “But yeah. I did. Now get well, so we can build it together.”
“Thank you…” Settia mumbled, his chapped lips brushing against Mizuki’s cheek as he spoke, making him flush with surprise.

They stayed much in that same position until evening fell. Mizuki got up briefly to lock the doors and change into pajamas, before slipping back into bed again. It all seemed so natural somehow. And he was relieved to find that Settia’s temperature seemed higher as well.
He thought about what he had said earlier, how he had gone about dealing with Settia’s condition. Didn’t that mean that he believed him, no matter how crazy it seemed? Maybe he was going crazy. It seemed that way.
You need to get well, he thought. Get well, so you can tell me everything.
He reached out, stroking Settia’s cheek gently. The other male stirred slightly. He mumbled something in his sleep. It sounded suspiciously like “I love you, Mizuki.”
Instinctively, he wrapped his arm around Settia’s torso, and pulled him even closer. “Silly.” He whispered.

**TBC**