"What? Why didn't you accept?" Yuuichi asked with disgruntled tone.

"Because he annoys me." Tsurugi answered bluntly.

"You do know I'm not going to be home for Christmas, right?" he asked.

"Yeah, because of the operation, I know." Tsurugi replied tiredly as he anticipated another lecture coming.

"Well, since both you and Tenma don't have anyone to spend Christmas with, why don't you invite him over?" Yuuichi suggested. "It's a lot better than being alone for the rest of the day."

"Um, because he annoys me." Tsurugi repeated with a hint of frustration.

"I mean for him. We both know how much Tenma hates being alone sometimes." Yuuichi cleared up but his brother still remained steadfast with his decision.

"Besides, he can just spend Christmas with Aki." Tsurugi said.

"Aki?" Yuuichi asked.

"His cousin." Tsurugi answered. "Anyway, it's getting late and I still have grocery to buy for dinner."

"Kyousuke, before you go, can I just say one last thing?" Yuuichi said. "It's Christmas. Can't you just make an exception for him this once?"

Tsurugi groaned and shook his head. "Nope, never going to happen." He said.

Did it really matter that much? Anyway, Tenma had her and that stupid dog of his to keep him happy so there was no need for him to waste his Christmas in a cramp apartment room (he had been there only once though he had been forced to go) with a lazy, smelly dog and an already hyper Tenma on sugar rush and Christmas rush all at the same time. He would most likely end up screaming and making a scene from the maddening chaos.

He nodded to himself, having reasserted himself and his assessment as correct.

He exited the market, pleased with how much he had saved. The Christmas sale was really the only good thing about this day. The prices were a steal and they were practically giving everything away and, a little embarrassingly, he had found himself so caught up with it, for a moment, he actually became one of those housewives who mobbed the stores rabidly to nothing while trying to get all that they could get their hands on. He even picked a fight or two with some women over some clothes and food.

"I hope no one saw me like that…" he said to himself, stopping as the light turned green.

As the cars drove by, he could see the happy families chatting away inside their vehicles. Honestly, shouldn't they be watching the road other cars? And then, what coincidence.

Right across the street was Tenma. He grumbled disappointedly but then he realized that Tenma hadn't noticed him at all. He wasn't even looking at his direction. He was gazing intently into a shop through its window which made Tsurugi a bit curious because only soccer had the power to entice him so much.

He looked at the shop and realized that it was a pet shop. Why would Tenma be looking into a pet shop? He was probably looking for a gift to get his dog. He loved it so much, it sounded like something he would do.

The lights turned red and walked over to Tenma's direction because unfortunately, it was the fastest way home and it was really late and he was very hungry.

He walked by as fast as he could, melding within the crowds so that he wouldn't notice him.

He turned to check if Tenma had noticed but luckily he remained affixed towards the shop. He sighed happily as he turned away from Tenma but then he saw something he never thought he would see.

A tear? Tenma was crying?

Tenma turned and left in the opposite direction but now Tsurugi was troubled. He walked back over and saw through the window. There wasn't much there. All there were were pets up for sale, all of which were puppies but one looked strange. It was white with patches of blue fur. It looked exactly like Tenma's dog.

A tap on his shoulder snapped him out of his thoughts and he turned to see an elderly man.

"Do you want buy one, sonny?" he asked him but Tsurugi shook his head.

"Sorry, no. I'm not an animal person." He answered.

"Well, I'm sort of glad actually." He said, pointing towards the peculiar puppy as it played with soccer ball like chew toy. "See that one there? I think another young lad is interested in buying the little thing."

"Does he have brown, swirly hair, is obsessive with soccer and owns a dog just like it?" he 'guessed'.

"Well, all accept the last part." The man answered in remorse. "Unfortunately, everything has its time and unfortunately, that one reached it just a few days ago."

"H-Huh?" he asked.

"Parasites. Real terrible. There wasn't anything to be done to save him cept' to put the unfortunate thing down to end his misery." He said. "The poor boy's still having it rough. You know, he came by just last week and bought that chew toy that little one is biting down right there as a gift for his dog. After what happened, he decided to give it to him since, with the resemblance and everything."

Tsurugi stared right at the puppy as tried climbing on the ball, only to fall over. It whined a bit but then it stretched its legs with a yawn and just curled over and began sleeping.

"…"


Tenma looked at the collar he held in his hands. Aki-nee was gone, his parents had cancelled on him right at the last minute because of a storm that disrupted their flight, and now…

He sobbed. This was the worst Chirstmas ever. He was alone and his closest companion was gone.

He held his collar close when he heard the doorbell ring. There wasn't anyone here anymore so it could only have been for him.

He got up, the collar still at hand and went down the stairs. He was only some feet away when he heard some cursing and someone telling something to stay still before yelling out in pain that it had bit him followed by another yelp and more cursing.

Tenma wasn't sure if he should even go now but he crept to the door and peeked out the peep hole and saw Tsurugi but he looked really angry and it looked like he was fighting with something.

He wiped a tear and opened the door.

"Tsurugi? What are you-"

To his shock, something jumped out and scrambled behind his legs. Tsurugi grumbled, staring angrily at the thing after it had…

"Hey…" he greeted. "It got out and I tried putting it back in and…do you have an extra shirt?"

Tenma was confused at first but then he got it and began chuckling a bit when Tsurugi glared at him, he stopped, picked the puppy and took him upstairs before noticing that it had something on it that was troubling it.

"Why is it covered in ribbons?" Tenma said rather angrily. If this was some jerk's idea of a joke, it's not funny. It was making the poor thing trip and fall around its own legs.

"It was a gift." Tsurugi answered in a low tone, surprising Tenma. "It didn't want to stay in the cage so I tried putting a ribbon on it but then we got into a fight."

"A fight? How do you fight a puppy?" Tenma wondered playfully as he untangled the string.

"Ugh…" he said. As he looked through Tenma's shirts, all of which were too small too fit him.

Tenma finally managed to free the puppy and set it down but once he did, it ran over and began gnawing Tsurugi shoe, furthering his anger.

"Go away!" he shooed but the puppy growled back. Tenma sighed.

"Stop! Come here!"

The puppy stopped and happily went over to Tenma who smiled and rewarded him with a pat.

"Really? You listen to him?!" Tsurugi said in shock.

"You just have to be nicer to him." Tenma said. Tsurugi sighed, giving the dog a dirty look which the puppy gladly returned.

Tenma hadn't noticed from the darkness and directed the dog to enter. "Here! Get in the box!"

The pup barked and ran inside, making Tsurugi even angrier. He had been trying to get in there from the moment he got it but it just kept nipping at him.

"I'm going home. Night, Tenma." He said.

"Wait, you're leaving already?" Tenma asked, picking up the box with the pup still inside. "Can I come with you?"