author's note: the lyrics are thanks to Emerson, Lake, and Palmer.

[four calling birds]

Tinsel and Fire
by Tenshi no Korin

They said there'll be snow at Christmas
They said there'll be peace on earth
But instead it just kept on raining
A veil of tears for the virgin birth

"...And keep your eyes open for the occasional reindeer, Siberian."

"Har Har." Ken grumbled back, as Yohji signed off in his earpiece. Lucky bastard, in tie and tails for the party below, not shivering on the rooftop in a drizzly cold rain. Ken pulled his goggles down, switching them for night vision, but the brilliance of holiday lights on the street far below made them practically useless. Ken sighed and shoved them back onto his hair, tugging his jacket a little closer and wondering how heíd drawn the shit position for this mission. True, Omi had to be ops, wedged in an air duct somewhere above the ballroom, and Aya was haunting the steam and shadows maze of the alleys below. Yohji, of course, was at his best when kissing hands and gleaning information, and they hadnít known it would take this long to wrap the mission when heíd volunteered to be the undercover purchaser. Ken snorted. Must be nice, getting paid to drink champagne and schmooze with the elite.

Ken sneezed, and checked his watch. They were running late. He shifted his weight on the cold iron piping, and thought passionately about hot tea and dry socks. From the street, traffic was almost a festive rumble though the silver haze of rain, and he could hear Christmas music dimly on Omiís open channel, piped tinnily through the tiny speaker concealed in the curve of his ear.

...just like the ones I used to know...

"Not any that I knew," Ken grumbled, but Omiís voice cut him off, hushed and urgent in his ear.

"Siberian. Theyíre heading your way. Abyssinian, be ready to move for backup."

"Understood." Footsteps clanged on the rooftop access stairs before Ken could hear Ayaís confirmation. The drone of a helicopter rumbled through the sky, humming vibrations against Kenís breastbone, shivers of adrenaline sparkling through his veins. Omiís carefully positioned harpoon would make sure it wouldnít land. Ken had to make sure there was nothing for it to come pick up.

Glass vials rattled in packed crates, jangling like Christmas bells as three figures pushed hand-trucks across the rooftop. Each tiny vial, Ken knew, contained a narcotic substance that was as lucrative as it was addictive, and inevitably deadly. Heíd seen the files on it himself, and the photos. It was nothing he cared to remember, and nothing he could pretend to forget.

"Three," Omi was saying, in his ear. "Two. One."

The harpoon went off with a whistle of shredded air, and by the time the chopper exploded in flames Kenís claws were already out, his feet were moving across the rooftop. They only barely had time to be surprised. Guns rose without firing, as five steel blades sliced neatly through fabric and skin with sharpened indifference. None of them screamed, falling across their cargo, the wooden cases splitting. Hundreds of glass bottles shattered and spilled, their contents power-fine, sparkling white.

Ken lifted his head as the wounded helicopter veered towards the harbor, windows licked with firelight, engine stuttering. Kenís earpiece erupted with Omiís voice.

"Report! Abyssinian!"

"Here. No action."


"These chocolate-dipped strawberries are fantastic, you guys want me to bring some back?"

"Siberian?" Pause. "Siberian!"

It could almost be snow, that fine dust blowing away across the rooftop, each vial cracking under his boots with a sound like fractured ice. The rain hadnít stopped, seeping wet into his collar, beading off the ends of his bangs. Red had spattered in an arc of tiny round droplets across the rooftop, glistening in the powder like holly berries.


"All right, All right," Ken muttered, and heard Omi let out his breath. "Iím just wrapping up, here. We can go home."

"Right. Meet at Sector 4 rendezvous. Bombay out."

"Abyssinian out."

"Maybe some petit fours, too. Itíll be a surprise. Balinese out."

"Siberian out." Ken clicked off the microphone on his jacket collar, and stared up at the sky, blinking away the raindrops that fell in his eyes. There were no stars, low clouds reflecting the millions of lights strung through the streets of Tokyo. "Merry Christmas."

I remember one Christmas morning
A winter's light and the distant choir
And the peal of a bell and that Christmas tree smell
And eyes full of tinsel and fire

"Ken-kun?" Omi, standing in the doorway of Kenís room, shifting his weight in his sock-feet. "I brought up some tea?"

Ken turned from the window, pulling the towel from his still-damp hair. The rain had become snow by the time heíd gotten out of the shower, filling the streets with fluffy white and softening the cityís sharp edges. From his window, Ken could pretend he didnít know what the snow was hiding.

Omi lifted his head and smiled at the glittering streets outside Kenís window. "Pretty, isnít it? I do like snow. Maybe we can have a real Christmas Eve after all."

Ken smiled wanly as Omi set mugs down on his coffee table. "Iím not even sure what a real Christmas Eve is."

Omi considered. "Look out there." He padded over, making a warm place beside Ken, blocking the cold air sluicing off of the window pane. "How it shines, just like a snow globe."

"Those are plastic," Ken said, more harshly than he meant. He was feeling empty and disillusioned, and Omi couldnít make him believe he was looking at a post-card. There was death out there, sleeping in the streets, there was pain and there was grief and there was loneliness.

"Ken-kun." Omi pressed his hands to the window, making halos of warmth around his fingers. "The mission we finished tonight... who knows how many lives we might have saved? We couldnít stop those first victims from dying, but we can stop it from happening again. We can keep people safe-- safe enough to walk down the street, to live their lives, to not wake up in the middle of the night, afraid. Itís a gift, Ken. Itís our Christmas gift."

Ken wanted to say that maybe he didnít want to be generous, maybe he wanted to not wake up afraid, to sleep without dreaming. But Omi was looking up at him, his eyes wide and shining with reflected Christmas lights, and Ken felt his words go fragile like a blown-glass orb, too easy to break and wound. "And what about us, Omi? What presents to we get?"

Omi frowned, and looked back out the window again. His hands must have been cold, removed from the glass and tucked into his armpits. "I donít know, Ken-kun. Maybe we havenít been good enough for presents. Maybe we havenít saved enough of them."

Ken found his hands wrapping up Omiís, warming them in his own. "I donít know how you could be better, Omi. Youíve always been the best of us."

"Iyaa..." Omi protested, his face coloring. His grin was innocent, infectious. "Well, maybe Iíll get what I want for Christmas, then."

Ken felt the laugh, hitching somewhere under his breastbone, shaking the pain loose. "And what do you want for Christmas?"

Omi went unexpectedly somber, his fingers curling around Kenís. "I donít want to fight anymore."

The laugh turned into an ache, subsiding. "...Omi."

"But--" Omi said quickly, and the shine in his eyes was too bright, tinsel instead of fire. "But, Iíd be happy just to not fight any more tonight... happy for us all to just be here. Iíve been good enough for that, right?"

"I hope we all have, Omi."

Omi smiled tightly, and looked down, realizing their hands were still together. "Um," He said, staring at Kenís fingers. "The teaíll get cold."

"Itís Christmas Eve, right?" Ken tilted his head to the holiday snow, the bundled couples on the sidewalk. "Shouldnít we have something better than tea?"

"Yohji went out to get... somethingÖ" Omiís voice trailed off, as he realized how Ken was leaning towards him, smelling just-showered, his breath warm on Omiís bangs. Omi went on his tip-toes to intercept, and his lips brushed the corner of Kenís open mouth, Kenís eyes fluttering closed.

Omi kissed like snow falling, soft and hushed and delicate. The tea went tepid, unnoticed, as Omi wound his arms around Kenís bare shoulders, fingers digging into clean damp hair, Kenís hands splayed warm and supportive around Omiís waist. They might have stayed there for hours, or until the snow stopped falling, but the door slammed downstairs and they jumped apart, guilty.

Omi laughed nervously, and Ken grinned, both of them knowing that they would never startle like that on a mission. "Better not let Yohji catch me kissing you," Omi said, fisting his hands in his oversized sweatshirt sleeves.

Ken raised an eyebrow. "Better not let Aya catch me kissing you. Heís more possessive than Yohji is."

They looked at each other in utter understanding, and Omi couldnít fight off his grin and Ken was laughing quietly at the floor.

"Right, anyway." Omi ruffled both hands in his hair, subtly moving out of Kenís personal space. "I asked Yohji to get us some take-out, are you hungry?"

Ken found his gaze pulled by the window, the cold. "I donít know--"

"Please?" Omi said, to the frayed hem of his shirt, absently poking one finger though a hole. "Iíd like it if you came down? I mean, if you donít have to be alone tonight," he looked out the window too, but not so willingly, "why would you want to be?"

"All right," Ken said, wanting nothing more than to pull the blinds, to take away the frost reflected in Omiís eyes. "All right, Omi."

I wish you a hopeful Christmas
I wish you a brave new year
All anguish, pain, and sadness
Leave your heart and let your road be clear

"Open it." Yohji said, without preamble, flopping onto the couch from behind, tossing an envelope in Kenís lap. Yohji had made good on bringing home takeout and what looked like half a liquor store, and Ken could hear Omi convincing Aya to stay downstairs long enough for a shared drink and dinner. Aya seemed to be losing the battle. "Go on."

Ken blinked at the unassuming white envelope, and slurped the rest of his noodle into his mouth. "What is it?"

Yohji rolled his eyes. "Why do people always ask that when they get a present? If you opened the damn thing, youíd know, so open it already."

"Okay, okay, quit hassling me." Ken put down his soba box and stuck his forefinger under the envelope flap, ripping it open. "Didnít take you for the Christmas card type, Yohji."

"Iím not."

Two tickets fluttered out onto Kenís lap. "Um," Ken said, picking them up and peering at the type across them. "These are soccer tickets, Yohji."

"Give the boy a medal." Yohji drawled.

"There are two of them," Ken specified. "Two prime soccer tickets for the nationals." He looked at them more closely, as if suspecting counterfeit. "These shouldnít even be available yet, Yohji."

He shrugged, gesturing with his coffee cup. "I got connections. I know a girl in ticket distribution, she got Ďem for me."

Ken was less surprised by Yohjiís unorthodox procurement tactics than by the fact that heíd thought to get them at all. "You hate soccer. You told me youíd rather have eye surgery."

Yohji lifted one shoulder carelessly. "I thought you could take Omi or something."

"Oh." Ken looked back at the tickets in his hand. "...Thanks."

Yohji blew up at his bangs in frustration, and kicked Ken gently in the shin. "Canít you take a joke, dumbass? Geez, Iím going with you."

Ken floundered. "But--"

"Lifeís too short," Yohji said, ominously, "to ask stupid questions, kid." He leaned across the couch and shut Kenís mouth. "Merry Christmas."

Ken caught Yohjiís hand before it could make a getaway, and pulled the other assassin down. "You faker," Ken grinned, triumphantly. "You said you didnít do the Christmas present thing."

"Yeah, well," Yohji tilted his mouth to Kenís, eyes fluttering closed. "Iím sure Iíll get over it eventually."

They said there'd be snow at Christmas
They said there'd be peace on earth.
Hallelujah, Noel, Be it heaven or hell,
The Christmas we get we deserve


twelve days of christmas
b i s h o n e n i n k