title: Pretty Paper
fandom: Earthian
characters/pairings: Kagetsuya/Chihaya
rating: G/Teen
warnings: none
summary: Kagetsuya and Chihaya on a snowy Christmas eve.
notes: while writing this, i'd only seen the anime, i didn't know anything about the manga. so, then, this is firmly in the anime continuity... this takes place about six months after the anime ends.

The sun had set a few moments ago, but Kegetsuya was loath to turn the lamp on. There were a few candles lit on the coffee table, and the warm, flickering light was soothing. He couldn't really read in this light, but the shadows were comforting.

He was only watching the snow fall, anyway. Fat, wet flakes drifted from the sky, floating on eddies, reminding Kagetsuya of just drifting on the wind, his wings spread out, his body at the mercy of nature.

He hadn't flown for six months. It didn't seem... fair, for him to go and be with the clouds and the winds and the birds, when Chihaya couldn't.

He sighed almost imperceptibly. Chihaya had gone to bed even earlier than usual tonight, before sunset. Usually, Chihaya would sit in the window until the sun went beneath the horizon at least, and then crawl into the bed in the guest room furtively, as if Kagetsuya might not notice that he was no longer sharing a bed with his lover if Chihaya could be sneaky enough about it.

Six months could be a long time. A long time to go without holding your lover, a long time to go watching him brood and grieve, a long time to realize...

...that just because you were the one he ended up with, didn't mean that you got the happy ending.

The glass in the window was beginning to frost, as the snow and chill outside was building. It was only the fourth snowfall of the season. Kagetsuya toyed with the edges of the paper in his book as his thoughts wandered out the window, and into the cold.

He nearly dropped the book when he felt a hand on his leg.

Chihaya was sitting on the ground at his feet, oversized pink oxford shirt and large sweatpants bunched around him. His large, purple eyes looked up at Kagetsuya with shy apprehension. "I'm sorry, did I disturb you?"

"Of course not." Kagetsuya had been working on not sounding so rough ever since Chihaya pointed out to him that he was like that. He hoped it was getting better.

Chihaya's eyes fell, and he started to play with the hem of his shirt. "I, um... I know that you don't like earthian traditions, but I thought..."

Kagetsuya wanted to reach out and touch Chihaya's chin, bring his eyes back up, but six months was a long time.

Chihaya's hands came up, and placed a small, wrapped box on Kagetsuya's knee.

Kagetsuya wasn't sure what to do for a moment. The box had been covered in thin, silvery paper with an embossed snowflake design. The paper was held in place with a silver ribbon. It was such an extraordinary thing for Chihaya to do these days, Kagetsuya was half waiting for the hallucination to dissolve.

Chihaya misinterpreted Kagetsuya's hesitation. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have..." His hands came up again, ready to whisk the offending package away.

Fortunately, Kagetsuya was quicker, and picked up the box, holding it at chin level. "No! I mean, I didn't realize we were exchanging presents. I don't have anything for you." Kagetsuya eyed the box sadly. Another missed opportunity to show Chihaya how much he'd changed... "But I'm very pleased to accept this. Thank you, Chihaya."

Chihaya blushed, and the little angel looked every bit the part, the tips of his ears pinking beautifully. Kagetsuya smiled warmly, and some of Chihaya's shyness melted away. "You can open it. I didn't tape the paper up because it was so pretty... This older gentleman on the street was selling it. No one else seemed to be paying him any mind... Anyway, I thought it would be nice if we didn't have to tear it."

Kagetsuya found it hard to stop smiling, which was a little odd, because he wasn't the type of angel to go around smiling a lot, but Chihaya hadn't moved his hand off of Kagetsuya's knee, probably had forgotten it was there, and the warmth of the hand through the cloth of his pants was more contact than Kagetsuya had become accustomed to.

Unraveling the ribbon exactly, Kagetsuya really wanted to put it in Chihaya's hair, but decided instead to place it on the arm of the futon. He unfolded the paper delicately, careful not to tear it, and smoothed it out once he was done. Handing the paper to Chihaya gravely, he was finally able to contemplate the box.

Simple brown, it offered no clue as to its contents, so Kagetsuya opened it, still anticipating. After pulling out some tissue paper, he could see what was inside, but it was wrapped up in a sleeve of bubble wrap. Once he had that out and open, he was finally able to see his gift.

It was a bird, fashioned of crystal, the glass tinted a slight yellow color, with wide wings. It was such a delicate job of cutting the glass, one had the impression that there were soft feathers coating the surface. The eyes of the bird were aqua stones, and there was a small ring on its neck where the ribbon to hang it was attached. Holding it by the ribbon, the bird very much seemed like he was frozen in flight.

Kagetsuya finally tore his eyes away from the bird to look at Chihaya. The dark angel's eyes were filled with hope, fear, and awe.

Smiling, Kagetsuya brushed a finger over the bird's brow. "It's stunning, Chihaya."

Beaming, Chihaya leaned forward just a little, displaying some of the excitement and joy that had once characterized him. "I saw it in a shop window months ago. It reminded me of you. So beautiful, and light, in flight..."

His voice trailed off wistfully, and Kagetsuya actively bit back a sigh. He couldn't imagine what it would be like to never be able to fly again of your own power. If only he had protected Chihaya better...!

"I know just where to put it, too." Chihaya's determined voice brought Kagetsuya out of his musings.

"Oh?" He slowly held out the finger from which the bird was hanging, offering it to Chihaya.

Chihaya took it carefully, standing up slowly. Kagetsuya got up a moment later to follow Chihaya to the kitchen. "You like to spend time here, right? And if we hang it over here, see, it will catch the light from the kitchen window." Chihaya indicated a spot that would place the bird right in the middle of the windows, over the counter.

Nodding approvingly, Kagetsuya got their picture hanging kit, and with very little effort, his bird was now forever in mid-flight over their counter.

Chihaya smiled at the bird wistfully. He reached out to touch it, but didn't quite make it. "There was a whole series of them... In every color you can imagine. There was a light green one... But I only had enough money for one, anyway."

Kagetsuya examined his feet for a moment. It seemed comical now that there had been a time when he thought that Messiah's death would mean that the false angel was out of their lives... "Was there a purple one?"

Chihaya was obviously disturbed by the question. "I... I didn't notice." He shuffled his feet nervously, wrapping his arms around his body tightly.

Kagetsuya wanted so badly to hold his lover, but he didn't want to upset Chihaya any further.

It was useless to pretend that they were still the happily married newlyweds. Perhaps they had never really been happy, but this charade was only hurting Chihaya. Swallowing his pride, Kagetsuya did something he promised himself he never would.

"I'm sorry that Messiah isn't here to be with you, Chihaya."

Chihaya jolted, his arms and legs moving around haphazardly for a moment. He looked everywhere in the room but at Kagetsuya, and when he did look up to his partner's eyes, he looked away again immediately.

"Oh, Kagetsuya, you don't have to..."

"No, I do. I should have said so a long time ago." He pushed a strand of hair away from Chihaya's face, the most contact he'd had with Chihaya in months. "You know, Chihaya... I never wanted things to end the way they did. If I could have, I would have died for him, so that you could be happy." It physically hurt to say it, but even though he wanted to deny it, it was true. Chihaya's happiness meant so much more to him than anything else, he would even see him in the arms of another.

"Kagetsuya!" Chihaya, horrified, took hold of Kagetsuya's shirt. "No! How can you say that? How can you think that I would ever want that?"

"I know that you loved him, Chihaya. I'm not angry. I can't, won't blame you for how you feel." Kagetsuya tried to smile, but found it impossible.

"Love him... Kagetsuya..."

"I wouldn't have stood in your way. I'm only sorry that you couldn't be with the one you loved the best."

"But I am, Kagetsuya!" Chihaya gripped the fabric in his hands tighter. "Kagetsuya... you know that Messiah was a clone, that the Doctor had created him in his lab? And that Messiah had black wings and dark features?" Chihaya barely waited for Kagetsuya to nod before continuing. "The same lab, if not exactly, where I had been held prisoner months before? Where did you think that the Doctor got the DNA to make an angelic clone from, anyway?"

Kagetsuya almost spoke, but then he actually thought about it for the first time.

Chihaya smiled up at Kagetsuya, relaxing his grip slightly. "I mean, it's not the only possibility, but given how long the replication process would be, and how developed Messiah was... I did love Messiah, Kagetsuya, but not at all as I love you. He was like... a brother, or a child, to me. He was the only blood relative I ever knew. But... I love you, Kagetsuya, I'm in love with you, never him."

Kagetsuya leaned back against the counter, the heels of his palms resting against the edge. He felt a strange sense of hope blooming in his chest, but he was always the negative checker. "That's not how he loved you, Chihaya."

Chihaya blushed, and let go of Kagetsuya's shirt entirely, blushing a little. "Oh... well... maybe, I guess, but... I can't help how he felt, you know."

"Chihaya... you've been grieving for him for so long, and... kept me at a distance for all this time... What do you expect me to think?"

"Kagetsuya!" Chihaya looked on the verge of breaking down. "It's not... all been grief, at least, not all for Messiah..." Chihaya looked nauseous and guilty. "But, Kagetsuya... What was I to think? I mean, I've always been a freak, but now..."

"Chihaya!" Kagetsuya tried not to sound gruff, but it was tiring having the same debate over and over again. "You know I don't care about that!"

"But I'm not even an angel anymore, Kagetsuya!" Chihaya turned away in shame, trying to hide himself from his partner. "I'm... deformed!"

Kagetsuya stepped closer to Chihaya silently, his hands almost touching Chihaya's shoulders before drawing back. What could he say? He'd told Chihaya a million times that his black wings weren't diseased or disgusting, but he never got through to his lover. And now, what could he say that wouldn't sound a million times more shallow? If it was his wing that was ripped away, Kagetsuya knew there would be no words to comfort him.

"I could hardly believe that you would care for me before... And now... I disgust myself. I hate myself. I wish... But there's no way I could leave you, even when I only cause you pain. You see how selfish I am? I can't protect you, I can't make you happy, and yet I stay with you... You gave up Eden to be by my side, even though you hate this earth, you gave up position and authority and children, all to be with me, and I can't give you anything in return. I'm ashamed of myself for my selfishness. I should let you go, and you could at least live comfortably with Elvira, but I can't... I only wish... I could give you half what you've given me. I'm sorry, Kagetsuya." Chihaya's voice cracked as he spoke, and he huddled more and more into himself, until he seemed very small.

Kagetsuya stood speechless, adrift. Finally, his heart kicked his mouth into motion, telling him that he needed to say something. "Chihaya... get your shoes. We're going out."

Chihaya rubbed his sleeve across his face, peeking at Kagetsuya, perplexed.

"You gave me a Christmas present, so you should let me take you out as a gift." Kagetsuya worked hard at softening his tone. "Please, Chihaya."

"A-all right." Chihaya made no attempt at smiling. "Wh-where are we going?"

Kagetsuya smirked. "That would ruin the surprise."

They had to bundle up to go out. The snow was still falling, and there were loads of people on the street. It was hard to stay together, the crowds being so intent at moving through them, but miraculously, Chihaya took Kagetsuya's sleeve.

It was a long walk, but they moved together, Kagetsuya slowing his stride so that Chihaya could keep up without difficulty. It was beautiful, with the lights from the stores glowing off the snow so that the street was transformed into something mystical. It was something Chihaya would have noticed before, but his eyes were firmly fixed on the sidewalk, mindful of the slush and the ice.

When Kagetsuya stopped for the restaurant, Chihaya bumped into him just a little.

They were seated close to the windows, and even though it was a little chilly, Kagetsuya was pleased because they could watch the snow and the crowds. Even Chihaya gazed outside, after he had sufficiently determined that the napkin wasn't going to assault him.

Kagetsuya ordered hot chocolate, and dessert for the both of them to share. He specifically asked for only one plate.

They didn't speak as they waited for their order, but then, Kagetsuya had never been good at making conversation. He always liked to listen to Chihaya ramble on about whatever, but he usually ended up discouraging the positive checker with his rough and dismissive attitude.

It was something he was determined to work on, as soon as Chihaya let him.

Two slim mugs, with piles of whipped cream heaped on top, and one plate generously filled with a creamy, decadent cheesecake were placed before them. Kagetsuya offered Chihaya a fork, and they slowly began to work away at the massive dessert.

"It's good, isn't it?" Kagetsuya contemplated his forkful as he casually questioned Chihaya.

"Um... yes, very, very good. I don't think even the two of us can finish it, though..." Chihaya looked mournfully at the seemingly untouched cheesecake, calculating the damage the walk home might do it.

"I can't make cheesecake like this, you know."

"Oh, that can't be true, you can do anything in the kitchen."

"No," Kagetsuya shook his head sadly, "I've tried. I can't quite get the right... creaminess, or texture. Mine are good, of course, but... not like this. It's quite an art, you know."

Chihaya examined the forkful he had just excavated, as if its mysteries might be visible.

"Do you remember the first time we came here?"

Chihaya looked around. Truth to be told, he didn't remember ever being here before.

"It was our first time in Japan. You came home one afternoon, after your daily jaunt, late, as usual, and I was mad at you for being late. You promised to make it up to me by taking me out for dessert. I tried to tell you that I'd already made dessert, but you insisted, and dragged me out here. We shared a slice then, too. You said that it was so good you should put it in your report, as a reason for saving the earth. I scolded you, and said that it was a foolish reason to spare a planet."

Chihaya blushed, remembering. "Ah, ha, yeah... that does sound rather silly..."

Kagetsuya stared evenly at Chihaya. "But you were right, Chihaya. If the earth had been destroyed, then no one would ever be able to enjoy this cheesecake again. And I, for one, think that would be a shame. You said that I gave up so much to be with you, but I don't remember ever giving anything up. From the moment I first saw you... Once I got to know you better... I knew, there would never be anyone else. I didn't give up Eden; Eden gave us up, by not allowing us to love as we chose. And I can't ever have had any children of my own, because I love you, Chihaya.

"You think you've never given me anything, but for one, I would never have ventured out and found this establishment, and eaten their cheesecake. I come here often, now, you know. And if it weren't for you, I would never have known the pleasure of this."

Chihaya's fork drooped lower and lower, as Kagetsuya's words settled in him.

On the walk home, Kagetsuya was pleased that Chihaya inched closer and closer, until he took Kagetsuya's arm in his and they walked side by side.

As he showered before bed, Kagetsuya found himself smiling into the water. Christmas, of all things, to bring them closer...

He had one towel knotted around his waist and one towel working in his hair when he left the bathroom. He was smiling, thinking about Chihaya's face when they walked home, his eyes actually up and taking in all the life around him...

But he stopped dead in his tracks as soon as he got inside the bedroom.

Chihaya was sitting on what used to be their bed, naked, in angel form. His long, black hair was pooled at his legs, and he was shyly trying to hide his body. But the most striking thing was the single black wing, rising up almost to the ceiling, its perfectly black feathers catching the light like the surface of a still pond at midnight of the new moon.

Chihaya's eyes were closed, and his shoulder lifted so he could hide his face behind it. The stump of his other wing was more visible in this position, something Chihaya either knew, and was trying to illustrate, or had forgotten.

More likely knew.

"Can you really love me, Kagetsuya?" His voice was shattered glass on wet tile, and Kagetsuya's ears nearly bled from it.

"I do, Chihaya."


"No." Kagetsuya sank into the mattress, covering Chihaya's mouth with a finger. His other hand reached back to massage the knot of muscle in between Chihaya's wings. "I do, Chihaya. That's all. I do."

Chihaya's eyes opened, blinking slowly as he did, and his face turned to Kagetsuya. "Why?"

Kagetsuya took Chihaya loosely in his arms. "Because... black is my favorite color. Because I would never find anything new without you. Because even disabled, you are more angelic than any I've ever known."

Chihaya's body slumped to rest against Kagetsuya gradually, his nose rubbing against Kagetsuya's collarbone. "Can I... stay with you tonight?"

Kagetsuya had to swallow several time before he could speak. From the bottom of his chest, he ground out, "Please."

Once they had settled together, Chihaya tucked securely in Kagetsuya's arms so that they could face each other, Chihaya's single wing sheltering them, Chihaya sighed, and grinned against Kagetsuya's neck. "You know... there does appear to be one advantage to my deformity." He paused, pressing himself closer against Kagetsuya's body, fluttering his wing faintly. "We can cuddle together like this, and I don't even have to retract my wing."

Kagetsuya smiled, and chucked silently. Burying his hand in Chihaya's hair, he inhaled deeply, the scent of Chihaya heartbreakingly wonderful. "Which means I get to play with your hair in bed..."

The snow continued to fall outside, but Kagetsuya was done watching it. He dreamed of the day, which now felt like it was not too distant, where Chihaya would be his again, not just by default, but in fact.

*sigh!* they were supposed to have sex, but it was just too soon. Chihaya just has sooooo many issues... it's lucky for him he's so damn cute. ^_~