July 8, 2016 by Lyn
They had exchanged presents with the crew the day before – although most of them had lavished their attention on Mabina’s twins and little Min – but, at Conrad’s suggestion, Kai and Conrad had held off their own exchange until this morning. Now, she waited with bated breath as he removed a wrapped box from the closet, with apparent effort; whatever it was, it was heavy.
She chewed on her lip. She hoped she liked it. She hoped it was something nice; she was lousy at lying. Mabina had been able to tell she hadn’t like the sweater Mabina-and-Cassidy had gotten her, she was sure of it.
He set the squarish box down with a small exhalation of breath, then smiled, echoing her thoughts: “I hope you like it.”
“I hope you like mine, too,” she said uncertainly, as she pulled the box towards her. She unwrapped it carefully, folding the paper beside her – waste not, want not, after all. The brown box was unadorned; clearly it wasn’t the original packaging, if there had been any, of the contents. She opened it slowly, unsure what to expect from this heavy mystery box.
The smell reached her first, a thick, musty, back-of-the-library smell, with the scent of new leather oil over it. She kept opening, quicker now, curious.
The tome was thick and heavy; she had to struggle to lift it from the box, revealing a companion of similar age and heft beneath. Excited now, she scanned them both for indications of their identity and contents.
Indications? Well, there was script on both of them, bearing a resemblance to the tattoo-like Change she sometimes noticed on Emrys’ arms, but illegible to her. She looked up at Conrad, curious.
“I’m not exactly sure,” he said, more proud than apologetic. “They’re a mystery.”
“A mystery?” She smiled broadly. “Oh, that’s wonderful!”
“You’re welcome,” he grinned. She smiled between him and her books, gleeful, until she remembered it was her turn to give a gift. Suddenly nervous all over again, she pulled his present out from under the bed. “You wouldn’t tell me what you wanted,” she murmured. And observing him wasn’t as easy as observing her friends, no matter what he said. But he and Vlad liked to roughhouse in loose approximation of sports when the weather was nice or even bearable, and football in November and December had found them outside in their coats and hats – and ill-fitting gloves or mittens.
“I’m sure I’ll love it,” he said, taking the box from her and shredding the paper in a matter of moments. Was that how you were supposed to do it? She watched uncertainly. She and ‘Lisha had talked it over, debated, bargained, negotiated. In the end, she’d been happy with what they came up with. Would he be?
He pulled the gloves out of the box, turning them over in his hands, spreading them out to their full seven-fingered width. Lisha had gone all out; they were warm, insulated, and would still allow him, hopefully, plenty of dexterity.
“These are so nice,” Conrad said, slipping one on. “How did you find something like this? The Store won’t do that kind of modification.”
“I worked out a deal with ‘Lisha – with Vlad’s permission, of course.” That she’d helped the girl come up with gloved for webbed hands had, of course, helped. “You like them, then?”
“They’re awesome. Thank you, Kai.”
She leaned in to steal a kiss. “I’m glad you like them. Maybe later, you can show me how to use Sima’s gift?”
“How to use… do I want to know?”
“Well, it would probably help to know,” she answered practically. “Right now, though, I have a couple more gifts to pass out. I shouldn’t be long.”
“I’ll ask later, then,” Conrad said. “Have fun, and come back soon. I’ll show you how to… whatever it is.”
For that, she kissed him again, taking her time at it. “I know you will,” she assured him. “You’re wonderful like that.”
“You’re pretty wonderful yourself. Hurry back and I’ll show you just how wonderful… unless demonstrating Sima’s present precludes it, of course.”
She blushed hotly. “I don’t think it will. I’ll be quick.” Her cheeks still on fire, she gathered her other presents and fled the suite before Mabina could stop her.
Author’s note: I’m not reposting the rest of this chapter, it’s awful, it’s not considered canon, and I hate it.