The Twelfth Day Of Christmas

by Marou (真郎)
illustrated by marourin

(mirrors http://s2b2.livejournal.com/69289.html)

Notes: I decided to honor our December deadline with a Christmas story ^^. I was struck with inspiration one day while humming The 12 Days of Christmas. I approached a dilemma while writing and could not commit to a single ending. There is an alternate one. Do tell me your favorite one ^^.

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me.

The kitchen was empty of its usual staff, quiet but for a soft hum echoing off stainless steel. A lone figure shuffled around the counter with the ease of familiarity, hunching his large form over the dish steaming before him. His workstation was a controlled chaos, variations on clean and cluttered surrounding him. Ingredients, utensils, cut flowers that he no longer had need of were carelessly laid about, like swooning maidens on a steel bed, as he placed the final touch on his opus.

Perfect.

His eyes were alight with admiration as he studied the lovingly placed arrangement before him, then wiped his hands off on the apron tied around his waist.

Everything had to be perfect for his beloved.

Everything.

Every last flower down to the petal had to be precise in order for the whole ensemble to shine.

He breathed in deep the scent of roasted meat and cinnamon, the nutmeg almost but not quite covering up the trace tint of something warm and coppery. It was a pleasant scent, nostalgic, even as his mood lifted from it. He cleaned up quickly and proficiently, then locked up the kitchen behind him with his precious gift in hand, cradling it protectively.

The night air had him pulling his muffler up higher over his cheeks, a defense against the blast of cold as he made his way down the white powdered streets. It was a warm winter and the snow would soon be melted away with the sun; leaving everything wet, miserable, and even colder for it. Streetlamps flickered and illuminated the steam curling up from the bag in his hands, like the breath from a small dragon, whimsically dissipating as the cold sucked away its substance.

He couldn’t restrain the happy smile on his face, and lowered his head slightly to touch his cheek against the warmth. How he hoped his beloved would think the same of the treats–smell the same wonderful scents and feel the same warmth and happiness from it that he had in cooking.

Upon reaching his destination, he checked his watch, then laid out the gifts quickly. It was time for him to leave now, and he stopped only long enough to set down an embossed card before he shoved his hands into his pockets and trudged off.

A partridge in a pear tree.

His humming, soft and barely stirring the air, accompanied him all the way home.

~

It was cold; unusually so–or so it seemed.

It was cold enough to make Ken regret leaving the house without a scarf as the brisk wind nipped at his nose and cheeks painfully. He swore he could feel the moisture in his eyes freezing, and blinked them rapidly to try to ease the sting. He reached up to tug the ski cap further down over bleached hair, the shaggy fringe doing nothing to blot out the little puffs of frost that made his eyes water.

All around him, there were lights and tinny speakers blasting Christmas carols. Bright, flashy signs displayed sales from window to window, each one boasting they were cheaper than the rest and so on. It was festive and jolly–as was befitting the holiday season.

Ken, on the other hand, only wanted to get inside.

Cold and aching from the long day, he almost tripped over a covered silver tray on his doorstep. The flickering light did a poor job of illuminating the bouquet of delicately arranged flowers with a single imprinted card propped against the silver dome.

Stooping down, he picked up the tray carefully and made his way into the apartment in a three way juggling show. He felt around in the dark, hoping he wouldn’t trip over anything from the door to the table. Ah, there, a solid bump to his shin told him to set the tray and flowers down here.

He stumbled along to the wall, then flicked on the light and blinked owlishly to adjust. Turning his head, he directed his attention to his table where he had deposited the assortment at his door.

“…the hell?”

He gaped at the delicately arrange bouquet that accompanied the mouth-watering smell of garlic and some type of roasted meat that arose from the dome. It greeted his nose and his growling stomach reminded him that although it was two in the morning he had yet to eat dinner.

Cautiously he picked up the cream-colored card and opened it, his eyes scanning the gold lettered words.

‘To my Dearest,

I hope with all of my heart that my humble efforts will not be in vain and that you will accept my offering of a partridge on this cold night. It is a garlic rosemary partridge breast stuffed with Italian cheese and prosciutto ham served with basil risotto. The wine is Villa Antinori Super Tuscan, my recommendation with the meal. May it warm and fill you as you have warmed my heart for me. You have had a most laborious day and as much as I wish to be there to ease your exhaustion, I will have to settle with this trinket.

Ps: the carnations are colored white chocolate over a pear tart.’

Turning over the card, he saw that it lacked a name. Hunger got the best of him and without another thought; he lifted the cover and almost reeled at the delicate scents that greeted him. He sat down eagerly before the feast, eyes still focused on that delicate off-white slip of cardstock. Tilting his head slightly, he smiled as he thought about it.

A secret admirer!

And a damn good cook at that.

Wasn’t that just every man’s dream come true?

“Well then…thank you for the food.”

~

“So you just ate it?”

“Yeah?”

The blond rolled his eyes and tightened his arms around Ken’ s wiry frame. Jack’s head lowered, mouth nuzzling against the nape of Ken’s neck as he took the time to scrape with his teeth and leave a light, strawberry mark against fair skin. He couldn’t help himself if he was a bit of a rice king (queen, whatever, he wasn’t picky)–there was just something nice about that smooth skin and almond eyes that he just couldn’t resist. An annoyed scowl tugged at his lips as his eyes narrowed, nipping sharply.

“What if it was poisoned, dumbass?”

“Ow you prick!” Ken reached back and smacked the other man’s tousled head. “I thought I said watch the teeth, you know Tchvosky’s gonna flip if I show up with marks poppin’ up over my collar again…and as for poison why would a secret admirer poison me?”

“Could be a necrophiliac for all you know.” Jack’s voice sounded mischievous.

“Gross man…don’t say something like that when you’ve got your hands in my pants.”

“Sorry, gonna forgive me, Kenny?” the blond grinned and kissed the mark he left on the smaller man, feeling faintly pleased with himself. “–and your roots are showin’, better go get it dyed soon or you’ll be two-toned.”

“I thought I told you not to call me Kenny, jack-ass.” The slighter man turned and pushed down his tawny-haired friend, then tossed his head and sneered down. “Besides…you talk too much.” He leaned down and pressed his lips against Jack’s, feeling a large, strong hand twining in his hair. He could taste booze and dinner on the other man’s mouth and found it a warm and familiar thing. A part of him thanked the dolt for his haphazardness, Jack’s shirt was already an unbuttoned mess and from there it didn’t take much at all to get it the rest of the way off. It took even less to undo those ripped and raggedy jeans.

“Fuck…Ken…”

The smaller man liked it when Jack was breathless like this, chuckling softly as his hand slipped into the opening of his friend’s pants. He crushed his mouth against Jack’s as the larger man gasped at the skin-to-skin contact, claiming it roughly. It was harsh and biting–nothing at all like kissing a woman, yet at the same time it was exactly what he wanted. There was no need for courtesy or gentlemanly manners. It was just him, Jack, and all the gritty give and take they wanted.

They tussled a little, rolling around like grade-schoolers on the playground before they settled in some halfway position, cocks touching as they ground and rubbed against each other. All words were replaced with grunts and groans of pleasure as they kissed and touched, wedged together as they rocked to completion.

“Get off me, you weigh a ton.” Jack gave Ken a halfhearted shove, merely succeeding in shoving the smaller man’s arm off his chest.

“I’m barely on you.”

“Well you’re boney.”

“Weren’t complaining earlier.” Ken grumbled, then rolled over and grabbed some tissues to clean himself. His skin goose-pimpled at the contact with the cold air, reminding him of the poor heating his friend had. “Please tell me you have hot water.”

“All 5.4 minutes.” Jack gave him that lazy, white-toothed grin.

Ken tilted his head contemplatively, chucking the used tissues into a nearby wastebasket, then grinned back.

“Dibs!” With that, he bolted to the bathroom, Jack sputtering a protest behind him.

~

The smoke of the club was cloying and alcohol permeated the air. It was just another Friday night.
“You sure this is such a great idea, man?” Ken growled as someone ground into him from behind, the music loud enough to deafen him. His pants were too tight and the room too crowded.

He had to admit it was a bitchin’ party.

“Why not? You seem to be having fun.”

His tawny friend slung a wobbly devil-may-care smile at him and continued moving. “Wait here, bro, I gotta take a piss.”

Ken glanced at where his friend staggered off, then snorted and shook his head. The bastard was probably drunk off his ass. He continued dancing, enjoying the cute little brunette number that was bumping against him in the most provocative ways, wearing nothing more than what he swore were strings and chaps. He glanced back one more time at where he saw Jack run off to, then grinned and shook his head.

Sorry buddy, you’re on your own this time. Time for me to get lucky.

He was more than readily led into the alley behind the club, moaning softly into full lips as he made out with the brunette. He felt her back press against the wall and placed a hand next to her face, tilting his head to get a better angle as his hand raked down her side. A part of him laughingly wondered if she was cold in the ridiculously scanty outfit, then decided he really didn’t care.

Suddenly the hairs on the back of his neck rose and he felt as if he were being watched. The gaze felt so heavy, penetrating even and he raised his head, ignoring the hot and insistent mouth at his jaw.

“Who’s there?”

He put as much force as he could into his voice with his current situation, eyes slightly glazed and the girl doing everything in her power (or so it seemed) to distract him. There was a clattering of trashcans in answer and muffled thumps of feet fading.

“…the fucking hell was that?” He grumbled under his breath, then turned to glance down at his partner. He felt the ardor cooling, sobering after the unsettling sensation. Uttering a low ‘che’, he turned from the girl and strode back into the club, ignoring her slurred protests.

~

“Asshole.” The brunette grumbled as she struggled to stand up straight, glaring after the Asian bastard that had just left her there. Her hands came up to rub at her arms, the winter air so cold it burned against exposed skin. Despite the sobering experience of the flat out rejection, her vision still swam and it was a chore just staying on her feet.

One step.

Two.

There, that was the door, wasn’t it?

She stumbled with a sharp cry, her stiletto heel giving out from under her and sending her pitching forward.

“Careful, love.”

Suddenly there was a warm, strong arm around her waist.

She gathered her feet under her, then lifted her head to look into the most startling blue eyes she’s ever seen. Smiling drunkenly, she leaned forward again into his arm.

God, accents were hot.

“It’s awfully cold out here, don’t you think?”

“Mm…’s cold.” She giggled slightly when he leaned down and pressed his cold nose to her neck. Her fingers slid along his arm as she batted her lashes at him, pulling him closer and letting her arms settle around his neck.

Tall and strong and god those blue eyes were killer.

What a jackpot.

“How’s bout you warm me…?”

Her lips pressed to his jaw line and fingers sank into his thick mane of hair.

“Tell me…are you anemic?”

“No…why?”

A large hand cut off the confused look as it encircled her throat. His broad back stood between her and the lights of the club, a black silhouette haloed by neon. Her vision swam as her resistance began to weaken like a dying bird’s, fluttering until it stilled.

He sighed a little, taking her meager weight against his arm without even a grunt for his trouble. He looked down at her with her thick makeup and scanty clothing, feeling his lip curl just a little in distaste. She smelled of cheap perfume and booze saturated in sex and pheromones.

The night was cold and dark as he made his way down the streets, no one noticing or caring about a passed-out girl with a too big coat over her scanty clothing.

He loved the city.

It wasn’t long before he carried her into his work station, like a new bride into her bridal chamber though far be it from he to call himself the fresh-faced bridegroom.

Admittedly, he felt as excited as one.

A Christmas carol was on his breath as he set her down on the stainless steel counter with all the care of a lover, the cold eliciting a small sound from her throat.

That simply wouldn’t do.

His hand closed around the handle of a large, sharp kitchen knife, savoring the familiarity of its weight as he strode to stand by her head. He gently tucked a strand of hair back from her face, scrutinizing it carefully as his humming grew flat with distraction.

The glide of steel through flesh was seamless and as cliché as it was–he immediately thought of a hot knife through butter. The wound was like a smile in her neck and only small gurgles escaped as her blood bubbled and poured into the bucket he had placed there.

He felt she was prettier like that with a ruby red choker to accent her pale throat. Much more becoming than that tacky glitter she had worn at her collar and breast.

The blade reflected her wide opened eyes; cherry lips stained with a trickle of blood as she gasped like fish for air and caught his attention. He leaned over her with a soft smile curving his lips; his gentle fingers tucking her hair back again.

“Anemics just don’t get that same fetching color, you know. I had to ask.”

He continued his humming, re-keyed as he stabbed the knife into her body, barely noticing the spasms and twitches.

Two turtledoves and a partridge in a pear tree.

~

The shink of the butcher knife against the cutting board was more than audible to Ken. He pushed himself further up the couch arm so he could hang upside down to look at Jack in the kitchen with nothing but an apron wrapped around his hips.

“So what was it this time?”

“Hell if I should know…something grilled. Dove was what the card said.”

“You should show it to me.”

Jack’s hands were deft as he chopped the vegetables, the scent of sautéing onions already wafting from the pan. He had long since banned Ken from the kitchen–the man a disaster and a half.

“Show you what?” Ken was always fascinated watching Jack. A part of him screamed injustice at the ‘get real’ eye he was given every time he offered to assist.

The bastard cheated.

It wasn’t his fault he wasn’t a culinary grad working as a tournant at the local hotshot restaurant.

“What do you think? The card, Tang. The card. God I swear you’re not Asian…or is it just the bleach speaking?”

“I should kick you out of my apartment. Without your pants.”

“Yeah…but then who would feed you breakfast?”

“Whoever heard of breakfast at 2 in the fucking afternoon?” Ken grumbled as he rolled back over, resolving to not look at Jack in his disgust.

“Hey as long as it’s the first meal of the day, I call it breakfast. Now get your ass over here…you can at least butter the toast.”

~
Ken decided that there were only two things in life worth the discomfort of a starched collar and a bow tie. One, was a hefty tip…and two? Two he had yet to decide upon. He sighed a little as he ran the cloth over a spotless glass for the nth time–just to pretend that he really was doing something deeply involved to avoid replying to the middle aged stock broker hunched against the counter. The man was pouring out his life story to match each time his glass of Calvados refilled from the bottle at his elbow.

Two martinis and a Morgan later, the stockbroker finally slapped a hand against the counter, heavy and uncoordinated with alcohol and fatigue.

“You’re a good boy, you know…good boy like my son. Thanks for listening.” His hand curled on the bills, crumpling them as he swayed on his feet like a punch-drunk boxer before the knock out. “Don’t be a loser like daddy, sonny…” his voice was thick and for a moment his watery eyes made a part of Ken feel a pulse of sympathy.

He watched the middle aged man a moment as he staggered for the exit, a hand reaching out for an invisible wall as he teetered dangerously before some miracle counter-weighted him away from the doorframe.

As if tag-teaming outside the door, another man walked in to fill in the space that the stockbroker had previously occupied. Broad-shouldered and dark-browed in a brown suit and heavy camel coat, the stocky man didn’t waste a second before flashing a badge.

“Detective Park. I’m here to investigate a missing persons report filed in the area.”

“Missing persons?”

The detective sat down at the bar, peeling off his heavy coat and brushing off the light dusting of snow on his hair.

“There’ve been a couple filed for this area and any information, any sighting of them or anyone seen with them can be invaluable to our investigation.” There was a brief shuffling as the detective reached into his suit and drew out three slightly rumpled photographs, the glossy images still clear beneath the abuse of a much-repeated routine.

“Have you seen any of them?”

Ken frowned a little as he studied the pictures spread out before him. He was about to shake his head no when he recognized, vaguely, the smiling girl in the center. She looked different in the light of day–without the heavy make up and he being sober enough to focus on more than just what was below her neckline.

“No sir…I can’t say I have.”

The lie burned the moment it fell from his lips and he swore his heart was drumming a staccato beat to the sounds of guilt and shame. Hoping his face showed none of it, he looked up from the photos. Ken caught the hawk-like gaze of the detective, the other man’s almond eyes boring into his own with an intensity that had his heart clenching for a moment. It took him a second before he could breathe again after that look was subdued and shifted away from him to the heavy watch on the detective’s wrist.

“Thank you for your time Mr…”

“Tang, Kenichirou Tang.”

“Mr. Tang.” Detective Park reached into his breast pocket and withdrew a card, pushing it towards the other man. “If you remember anything…anything at all, don’t hesitate to call.” He made sure Ken took it before he gave him a faint smile.

“Will do, Detective.”

“Happy holidays, Mr. Tang.”

With that, the detective shrugged his coat back on and headed out onto the frosted street outside the door.

Pale, Ken lowered his head to rest on the bar, feeling as if his heart were going to rip itself from his chest. His hands were clammy and he could feel guilt and fear twisting low in his bowels.

“Right serious looking, wasn’t he?”

Ken almost jumped at the voice, then stared blankly into familiar blue eyes and a matching white grin.

“Aren’t you jumpy?” Jack’s voice was teasing.

“Don’t make fun of me you bastard…that detective scared the crap out of me.”

“What did you do THIS time, Kenny?”

“None of your business and I thought I told you not to call me Kenny.” He ran his hands through his hair and took in a deep breath to try to call himself. “He was just asking some questions about people who disappeared…that’s all. Nothing more, nothing less.”

“Fine fine, so you did nothing. That’s crystal.” Jack set a box down on the bar. “And here I was, thinking I’d be a sweet-heart and bring you food.”

“Sorry…just a bit tense.”

“Enjoy dinner, Ken. Gotta run, startin up the last shift at the restaurant.”

Ken watched as the other man waved a two-finger-salute at him and trotted off.
~

His son never did come for the season. It seems his wife had custody for Christmas and there was really nothing he could do about it. His steps were faltering, crunching through the snow as he left the bar, knowing he stunk of liquor but finding it impossible to care. Eyes bleary, the cold ached against his runny nose as he wiped with the back of his sleeve.

He really was such a loser.

The stockbroker hunched against the wall as he felt nausea come over him, his stomach doing flip-flops as he scrambled to get off the sidewalk towards the overflowing trashcans in an alley. He hunched over and heaved, all the alcohol he had consumed earlier burning its way up his throat. His head pounded and his eyes watered as he emptied his stomach, waiting for the roiling waves to subside.

All in all the misery was overwhelming.

“Are you alright, sir?”

He didn’t even notice the crunch of footsteps in the snow, trying to focus bleary eyes at the silhouette that came between him and the entrance to the alley.

“I’m alright, sonny…don’t worry about me.” His hand remained pressed to the wall, not trusting himself to walk on his weakened knees. “Thanks for asking anyways…have a nice holiday.”

He began to stumble towards the entrance, barely noticing as he began to tip forward.

“Careful sir…don’t want to bruise yourself now do you?”

The stockbroker looked up, squinting as he tried to make out more of the man other than a pair of blue eyes.

Blue eyes and a white-toothed grin.

“I really should be–”

He was cut off as a large hand covered his face and slammed him back against the wall. His mind could only hold onto one thought as the world spun around him–could only think about the wrapped box that sat in his closet, alone and waiting for a boy that wouldn’t be there for Christmas. He felt a deep well of sorrow inside at that thought. He should have mailed the box to his wife to give to the boy…or maybe even give it to someone random on the street. Maybe he should have even given it to this man here, a self-deprecating thought before his mind blackened like a curtain crashing down before him.

The smell of booze coming off the stockbroker was overwhelming but he was willing to overlook it as he shouldered the middle-aged man’s deadweight. A part of him was glad they didn’t have far to go as he half carried, half dragged him to his workstation.

Laying him on the table, he checked the back of the man’s head for unintentional lacerations, glad when his hand came away clean. He hummed to himself as he undid the tie with care, slipping it away from the stockbroker’s neck and stripped down the man until he lay naked on the steel counter.

He had sharpened the knife earlier that day but he was wary of snagging it on clothing and making the cuts uneven. He detested uneven cuts. It marred the appearance like an ugly slash over what should be a work of art.

He was in a good enough of a mood to whistle softly under his breath, pleased, as the man didn’t even stir once but for the twitches of his limbs as his knife slid into flesh.

The scent of some liquor came to him stronger than the others as he worked, flaying skin from meat and meat from bones. The tip of his knife was just pressing to the base of the ribcage when the memory of apple struck him.

Calvados.

The man had drunk a ton of Calvados.

“What do you know…you have bloody good taste, chap.”

~

“You’d never guess what I almost choked on last night.”

Ken swung open the door without even a hello of an introduction and deposited himself on Jack’s couch, swinging his feet up onto his friend’s lap. His friend slanted a dirty look in his direction but he didn’t budge, much to the blond’s chagrin.

“And here I thought you were starting to get good at giving head? Did you forget to swallow again, Kenny?”

“Ha ha, funny. Real funny–I almost forgot to laugh.” The smaller man kicked Jack in the stomach, giving him an evil eye. “A gold ring, Jackass.” He rummaged in his pocket and pulled out a simple band. “It was in the ice-cream that secret admirer sent last night.”

“Gold ring?” Jack let out a low whistle. “Ain’t pulling the stops now are they?” the blond put down his book to glance at the ring, taking it and looking it over. It was simple, yes, but elegant for the sparseness of its engraving. “It’s nice…though think it’s from a guy?”

“Why do you say that?”

“A ring, man. Sounds like a proposition, you know? Besides…the food kinda’ makes me think of a guy thing.”

Ken shook his head at the thought.

“How weird.”

Jack blinked a little as he finally took a good look at his friend. “Went for black?” he tugged at the newly colored locks.

“Hey it’s my natural color…I figured I might as well get in touch with my heritage.”

“Or your roots in this case.” Jack tugged again. “You just got too lazy to keep on bleaching, didn’t you?”

“Maybe I did.” Ken swatted at his hand, then turned so he could rest his head where his feet were, settling himself quite comfortably in Jack’s lap. “Maybe I did…”

~

“Mr. Tang.”

Ken hunched slightly, shoving his hands deeper into the pocket of his coat as he pressed his chin to his muffler. He was praying inside that the detective would think he got the wrong person, praying hard for it though the crunching of snow under shoes made his stomach sink.

“Detective Park.” He forced a smile, slowing his pace as the other man trotted up to him.

He was as intimidating as ever with his broad-shouldered form in a suit and camel coat. His plain scarf flapped as his breath puffed out at his greeting.

“Going to work?”

Ken nodded. They were standing right outside the door to the bar.

“I’m glad I caught you…god I can use a drink. I’m freezing my ass off.”

The detective’s amiable tone only served to make Ken more wary, still remembering the hawk-like intensity of dark almond eyes.

The keys were hard to grip in his gloved hands, taking a moment before he pushed the door open and almost reluctantly let the other man in.
It wasn’t the first time that he’s bumped into Park, having ‘coincidentally’ met him at the salon and outside of the club while the detective was making his rounds. He knew that he was being watched, that Detective Park knew he was bullshitting the first day they met and was waiting for him to crack. It made him paranoid, knowing that someone was tailing him but not being able to know exactly when or where. He didn’t know what was going in on the detective’s head, what he suspected him of, but there was a near-tangible intent that radiated from the other man.

The sinking feeling in his gut grew as the other man settled down at the bar, his coat on the stool next to him. The bar was empty but for the two of them and he could practically feel the underlying intentions of the smile.

Park was a hunter than had cornered his prey and was pinning him down for the final blow.

“What can I get you, Detective?”

“Please, Park will do. I’ll have a glass of bourbon, straight up.”

Ken studied the detective in the mirror as he uncapped the heavy glass bottle of bourbon, the woodsy chemical tang biting at his nose as he poured it, handing it to the other man.

“Thank you.” Park’s eyes never left him, even when he sipped. “Good vintage.”

There was a moment of silence as the detective drank, then the glass gently clinked against the counter.

“Do you remember the missing person’s case I talked with you about?”

“Of course, Detecti–I mean Park. I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled. Has there been any news? Any leads?”

“I’m afraid not really…except for one curious thing.”

“What’s that?”

The detective pulled out a stack of photos and laid them out on the bar. There were nine of them now. Nine smiling faces gazing up at him, forming a glossy mosaic of identity.

“They’re in chronological order…can you take a look and tell me if you recognize any of them?” Park’s tone was amiable as he leaned against the bar with the casual air of a man showing his collection of baby photos.

There he was; number four, the stockbroker that had poured his heart out over a bottle of Calvados.

“All victims missing the night before–all reported the next morning. There’s been exactly one victim missing per day.” The detective leaned in, his dark eyes loosing the smile that was still on his face.

“Number 4, missing on the night of December 17. The same day I came to talk to you about this case for the first time.”

Ken felt the color drain from his face, staring down at the photos as if each of those faces were sentencing his death. He could feel his eye prick just slightly at the careworn face of the stockbroker, not even sure why his heart was suddenly flooded with pity for the man.

“Number 8 was 6 months pregnant and is a mother of 2.”

Feeling sicker and sicker with each word that passed the other man’s mouth, Ken finally had to peel his eyes away from the faces, head rising to look at Park.

The detective was suddenly a mere inch or two away, his eyes piercing as his voice lowered. “This case is going Fed, you know.” He tossed back the rest of the bourbon and placed some cash on the counter, picking up his coat.

“You know how to contact me, Mr. Tang.”

With that, he was out the door and disappearing into the already darkening streets.

~
[Point for Ending 1]

I know Tang is a part of this…it’s connected to him somewhere, somehow.

The rhythmic thwacking of his bound fists against the punching bag was therapeutic. He was baffled by this case, each missing person’s face reflecting in his mind. One each day, right under their noses yet there was nothing that he had to go on but for the same trails that led right to one Kenichirou Tang.

The bastard’s counting down to Christmas!

His instincts were frazzled, the tension rising as the countdown drew closer to its end, the case barely able to escape being blown up by the media as the missing individuals were not yet called in as dead. It was as if they just…disappeared.

Nothing.

Frustration built as day by day went by with his collection of photographs only growing.

Anger grew as the case–HIS case would be taken from him and given to some federal hotshot who would take every scrap of his work and claim glory for himself. He worked too long and too hard on it to meekly hand it over to someone else.

Park swung one last time, rocking the bag on its chains before he reached out to steady it, leaning against it and wiping the sweat from his brows.

It was late.

“Take it easy, Park. We’ll get the bastard. Go home and take a break.”

“Thanks Miller.” Park waved off the concerned look of his partner. “I think I’ll do just that…I’ll chase another lead tomorrow.”

“Need a ride?”

“Naw, I’ll walk. Call it a quasi walking the beat.”

“Alrighty, see you tomorrow, Park.”

The detective sighed as he stood under the shower, letting the hot water ease some of the complaints that his over-used muscles voiced. Sometimes it was nice to just let it out like that and vent his frustration on the punching bag. It refreshed him and renewed his determination.

It wasn’t long before he was shoving his hands into his coat pocket and on his way home under the flickering street lights. He kept his eyes peeled, hunching just a little against the cold.

He grunted a little as his shoulder clipped someone, uttering a gruff ‘scuse me. In a foul mood, he lifted a hand to smooth out his shoulder.

“…Fuck!” his coat front was red with blood from where he was bumped.

The detective turned and bolted after the guy, arms and legs pumping furiously to catch up as the other man took off. The target veered off into an alley and Park knew that if he waited to call he would loose him, perhaps for good. Without needing to deliberate any more on the topic, he put on a burst of speed and dove, tackling the other man to the ground and knocking over trashcans as they grappled.

“You’re under fucking arrest.”

The man bucked him off, surprising Park as he hit the ground with a loud thump. The bastard was strong–really fucking strong. His sore muscles screamed as he kicked out to knock the other man down again, gripping him by the arm and shoulder and trying to lock him in place.

Unfortunately, the thick clothes destroyed his leverage, making movement awkward and wearing out his already exhausted body. He could feel his grip slipping and bit-by-bit, he was losing the battle.

The street was deserted and when Park met the other man’s blue eyes, in a flash he knew that he had fucked up. He had fucked up royally. The bastard lured him on purpose.

The wind was knocked out of him with a swift punch to the gut and while he was hunched over, wheezing, the other man’s fists came crashing down over the back of his head, his body collapsing onto the ground.

“What a bloody firecracker.”

He bent down and heaved the detective up, looping an arm over his shoulder and taking as much of the considerable weight onto himself that he could. The man was heavy with muscle and was by far the hardest of all ten to move.

When he reached the workstation, he could feel that excitement tingling down his arms into his little fingers, gazing at the detective fondly as he stripped him down. His muscle structure was perfect–everything was perfect. It would be the grand masterpiece, he was sure of it.

He wasn’t going to be careless with this one…no, he was far too dangerous to allow any slips. The detective was bound down tightly onto the steel counter and he took extra care when sharpening his knife.

He checked the gag and binds one more time, then pressed the tip of the knife gently to the man’s abdomen. There was a moment of hesitation, then the knife went instead to his wrist, biting in deeply.

This one was too perfect to cut dead. He was made to be as fresh as possible.

Suddenly the arm beneath his knife corded and when he looked over he could see furious dark eyes glaring at him, roars of anger and pain muffled by the gag–but no fear.

The detective really was something else.

He worked quickly, running the knife over the other wrist, leaving two steady rivers of blood flowing into the buckets on the floor beneath him.

The excitement built in him, coiling rich and hot as he pushed the knife in deep. The detective’s body tensed, trying the fight him even now as he began making his cuts, taking great care to make them perfect.

It was hard with the man resisting as much as his binds would let him, barely weakening even as he set aside slabs of meat into a waiting tray.

The red flesh was beautiful, making him pause a little before he could continue, as there was an uncomfortable tightening in his groin.

He was breathing heavily by the time he had a full platter of meat, he was so aroused he found it difficult to even stand. Taking in deep breaths, he finally straightened up and washed his hands to clear the workstation, humming softly under his breath.

~

“You know, I haven’t been harassed by that detective in a while.”

“Oh really?”

Ken rolled his eyes at the distracted tone his friend was using. He sighed as he settled back to Jack’s arms, soaking in the heat from his body. The blond was a comfortable enough cushion, even if he wasn’t as soft as that tempting pillow laying just two feet away was. “You should really invest in some heating.”

“Mm hm…but why do that when I have you for a hot water bottle.” Jack’s voice held a playful note, his teeth sharp on Ken’s neck and earlobe. “Besides, landlord’s supposed to get it fixed sometime after new years.”

“Right. If I see your frozen ass I’ll be sure to tell someone to thaw you out.”

“Why not thaw me out now?”

Ken could feel his lips twitching up at the light in Jack’s blue eyes. He turned in the embrace and brushed his lips against the corner of the other man’s mouth.

“Don’t you have to be at work in an hour?”

“I think we can make it.”

Whatever Ken was going to say was cut off as the covers were pulled over their heads, Jack’s mouth a warm and much welcomed distraction.

~

“FUCK!” Jack scrambled for his shirt, barely having time to toss the used condom into the waste bin.

“I told you you were going to be late.” Ken stretched out on the bed, amused as seeing his tawny-haired friend hopping on one foot while trying to shove his foot into a sock.

“You know where the food is, gonna be late, Ken, don’t wait up.” Unable to resist swooping in to steal a kiss, Jack flashed a white-toothed grin at the smaller man and ran out the door still fastening the buttons of his uniform.

When he skidded into the restaurant, the aboyeur threw a wink at him. “Late again, Jack? I think you’re stuck on Boucher duty tonight with the Sous chef then.”

“I know I know…but God, whoever heard of working overtime on Christmas Eve.” The blond whined plaintively to a good-natured chuckle.

“Just hurry up and get changed before it’s Boucher and dishwasher.”

Jack smiled sheepishly as he ducked into the kitchen, tying the apron around his waist and prepping himself for the night from hell.

~

“Tournant!”

“Yes!” the blond could barely resist the urge to snap a salute, as he stood rigid before the Sous chef.

“You were half an hour late on Christmas Eve…you know it’s a busy time for us.”

“My apologies, Sir.”

Jack could keenly feel the rest of the staff slinking out like mice, wanting to scurry home without having to feel pity for the night. He wailed mentally, the kitchen echoing the Sous chef’s clipped words almost painfully when empty.

“Well get to it, we’ll prepare the lamb for tomorrow.”

Rolling up his sleeves, he gathered up the pans and plates that haven’t been set into the sink yet and dropped them there, refraining from washing now as he knew that they would need to wash again after preparing the meat.

He hated Boucher duty. Not just because it kept him behind for an already unreasonably late night, but rather the fridge was creepy. Meat was delicious but looking at it in all it’s bloody glory was sometimes a bit unnerving–particularly when you were stuck after alone. The normally bustling kitchen would be silent and that in itself was something that made him tense.

Jack opened the fridge and walked in, glancing around and frowning as he realized one thing–the slabs were beef and pork but lamb needed to be fresh delivered in the morning from the butcher.

He stepped out of the fridge and closed the door, thinking about it for a moment. Had he misheard? Boucher duty was supposed to be marinating beef and chicken, meats that tasted a little better with more time. But he was pretty sure he heard the Sous chef say prepare the lamb. He stared at the freezer door as he thought, then blinked as he noted something moving. He looked at the blurred reflection in the metal and tilted his head, squinting slightly to make it clearer. His hand was resting on the handle, leaning just a little closer before he realized the figure was coming closer, startling blue eyes in his field of vision before he looked down at his chest.

The red covered tip of a knife was shoved up below his ribcage and coming up through his body. His lips parted but nothing came out as his knees crumpled beneath him, the world turning on its axis until everything turned black.

“You know…it’s terribly irresponsible to be late for work, Jack. Particularly for recreational reasons.”

He grabbed Jack by the collar and started dragging him across the kitchen.

“You didn’t even take a shower before coming…really, how unprofessional.”

He grunted as he slung the body onto the steel counter, then looked over with softly admiring eyes. As vexed as he was by the blond, he had to admit it was perfect for the last meal, a bubble of excitement rising in his chest at the thought.

“You’re almost as good as the detective as far as muscle quality goes–but I think he was a little better.” His tone was conversational as he cut open the younger man’s clothes. He dropped them into a bucket and let his eyes run over to decide which cut would be perfect.

“You’ll make a wonderful tataki for my dear.”

He hummed as he sharpened his knife on the whetstone, wanting to get started before the blond’s eyes glazed over. He didn’t want the meat getting too cold.

~

Ken wondered what sadist made working on Christmas Eve for late hours legal and decided that if he ever saw said sadist he would shoot him with a shotgun. He pulled his collar up higher, having forgotten his scarf again as he trudged his way home.

He was so intent on warming his cheeks that he didn’t notice the man in front of him until he bumped into him.

It was like running into a wall.

He oofed as he fell onto his ass, biting back a curse as the man crouched and offered a hand.

“My apologies…are you alright?”

Ken blinked at the soft voice, then glanced up into the most startling blue eyes he’s ever seen.

“Ah…yeah. I’m fine. Don’t worry about it.” He took the proffered hand and was a bit surprised with the ease that the other man helped him to his feet.

“I’m relieved. If you ever want to collect compensation for it, I’m a chef at the Dodici Notti on Elm. I’d be more than happy to treat you to something.”

“Ah…thanks.” Ken ran that name through his head and smiled a little as he remembered. That was the restaurant Jack worked at. When the other man stared at him in silence, waiting for him to say something, he could feel his face heating just a little. “Uh…Merry Christmas.”

“Merry Christmas to you too.”

As they parted, the chef was in good spirits, beginning to hum softly under his breath.

The streets were cold as the snow drifted down, dusting everything white again like something out of a children’s book. He smiled as his breath puffed out in little wisps, coiling before the cold made it disappear.

It was truly a beautiful white Christmas.

I think he rather likes the presents…I wonder what I should get him next year? he thought to himself as the street lamps flickered overhead.

[The End 1]

illustrated by marourin

[Ending 2]

I know Tang is a part of this…it’s connected to him somewhere, somehow.

The rhythmic thwacking of his bound fists against the punching bag was therapeutic. He was baffled by this case, each missing person’s face reflecting in his mind. One each day, right under their noses yet there was nothing that he had to go on but for the same trails that led right to one Kenichirou Tang.

That bastard’s counting down to Christmas!

His instincts were frazzled, the tension rising as the countdown drew closer to it’s end, the case barely able to escape being blown up by the media as the missing individuals were not yet called in as dead. It was as if they just…disappeared.

Nothing.

Frustration built as day by day went by with his collection of photographs only growing.

Anger grew as he knew the case–HIS case would be taken from him and given to some federal hotshot who would take every scrap of his work and claim glory for himself. He worked too long and too hard on it to meekly hand it over to someone else.

Park swung one last time, rocking the bag on its chains before he reached out to steady it, leaning against it and wiping the sweat from his brows.

It was late.

“Take it easy, Park. We’ll get the bastard. Go home and take a break, it’s Christmas Eve.”

“Thanks Miller.” Park waved off the concerned look of his partner. “I think I’ll do just that…I’ll chase another lead tomorrow.”

“Need a ride?”

“Naw, I’ll walk. Call it a quasi walking the beat.”

“Alrighty, see you tomorrow then. Merry Christmas, Park.”

The detective sighed as he stood under the shower, letting the hot water ease some of the complaints that his over-used muscles voiced. Sometimes it was nice to just let it out like that and vent his frustration on the punching bag. It refreshed him and renewed his determination.

It wasn’t long before he was shoving his hands into his coat pocket and on his way home under the flickering street lights. He kept his eyes peeled, hunching just a little against the cold.

He grunted a little as his shoulder clipped someone, uttering a gruff ‘scuse me. In a foul mood, he lifted a hand to smooth out his shoulder.

“…Fuck!” his coat front was red with blood from where he was bumped.

The detective turned and bolted after the guy, arms and legs pumping furiously to catch up as the other man took off. The target veered off into an alley and Park knew that if he waited to call he would loose him, perhaps for good. Without needing to deliberate any more on the topic, he put on a burst of speed and dove, tackling the other man to the ground and knocking over trashcans as they grappled.

“You’re under fucking arrest.”

The man bucked him off, surprising Park as he hit the ground with a loud thump. The bastard was strong, really fucking strong. His sore muscles screamed as he kicked out to knock the other man down again, gripping him by the arm and shoulder and trying to lock him in place.

Unfortunately, the thick clothes destroyed his leverage, making movement awkward and wearing out his already exhausted body. He could feel his grip slipping and bit-by-bit, he was losing the battle.

The street was deserted and when Park met the other man’s blue eyes, in a flash he knew that he had fucked up. He had fucked up royally. The bastard lured him on purpose.

The wind was knocked out of him with a swift punch to the gut and while he was hunched over, wheezing, the other man’s fists came crashing down over the back of his head, his body collapsing onto the ground.

“What a bloody firecracker.”

He bent down and heaved the detective up, looping an arm over his shoulder and taking as much of the considerable weight onto himself that he could. The man was heavy with muscle and was by far the hardest of all twelve to move.

When he reached the workstation, he could feel that excitement tingling down his arms into his little fingers, gazing at the detective fondly as he stripped him down. His muscle structure was perfect–everything was perfect. It would be the grand masterpiece, he was sure of it.

He wasn’t going to be careless with this one…no, he was far too dangerous to allow any slips. The detective was bound down tightly onto the steel counter and he took extra care when sharpening his knife.

He checked the gag and binds one more time, then pressed the tip of the knife gently to the man’s abdomen. There was a moment of hesitation, then the knife went instead to his wrist, biting in deeply.

This one was too perfect to cut dead. He was made to be as fresh as possible.

Suddenly the arm beneath his knife corded and when he looked over he could see furious dark eyes glaring at him, roars of anger and pain muffled by the gag–but no fear.

The detective really was something else.

He worked quickly, running the knife over the other wrist, leaving two steady rivers of blood flowing into the buckets on the floor beneath him.

The excitement built in him, coiling rich and hot as he pushed the knife in deep. The detective’s body tensed, trying the fight him even now as he began making his cuts, taking great care to make them perfect.

It was hard with the man resisting as much as his binds would let him, barely weakening even as he set aside slabs of meat into a waiting tray.

The red flesh was beautiful, making him pause a little before he could continue as there was an uncomfortable tightening in his groin.

He was breathing heavily by the time he had a full platter of meat, he was so aroused he found it difficult to even stand. Taking in deep breaths, he finally straightened up and washed his hands to clear the workstation.

Opening his fridge, he glanced around, picking a couple of tomatoes and a clove of garlic, and set them down on the counter. As he prepared the ingredients for a spendini, he started to hum tentatively. Bolstering himself, he began to hum louder. The sizzling of the garlic in olive oil, the familiarity of cleaning and cutting and cooking satisfied a base part of him. True to form as a chef he wouldn’t work in a dirty kitchen, making sure he had ample room to cook.

He sliced the meat thinly, setting it to be braised.

Glancing at the clock, he startled a little as it was approaching three. Ken would be off from work soon.

Applying the last touches to the dish before covering it, he grabbed a bottle of wine and took a deep breath.

Tonight was it.

He continued humming to soothe himself, making his last rounds as he bundled up against the cold, holding his precious gift close. The street lamps cast a dirty yellow light on the empty streets, only the roar of a passing car accompanying him at sparse intervals. His breath puffed, arms tightening a little around his package as he made his way to Ken’s apartment.

Good, he was early.

He sat down on the stoop, rehearsing in his head as he waited for the other man to come home.

~

“Fuckin’ cheap bastards.”

Ken grumbled as he walked home. He kept his hands deep in his pockets, his mood fouled by having to work on Christmas. Sure, it was 3 am Christmas morning but that still counted, right? Bartenders just never seemed to get a break.

As he approached his apartment he saw a hunched form on the stoop, his curiosity getting the better of him and inciting him to trot over to investigate.

“Jack? What the hell are you doing out here? It’s freezing, man.”

“Ken…!” the blond jumped up, dusting snow from himself.

The smaller man eyed his friend, then his gaze trailed to the bag in his arms.

“What’s that?”

“Well…Ken…” Jack cleared his throat and tried again. “I have a confession to make.” He gingerly opened the bag and withdrew the covered dish and a blank card.

“It was you…?”

Unable to look his friend in the eye, the blond took a deep breath.

“To tell you the truth…I love you. I’m trying to woo you, you know, the whole wine and dine gig?”

“…god you’re corny, Jack.” Ken smiled though, looking at the covered plate, the steam rising from it in delicate wisps. He glanced up at the other man, looking at his friend’s reddened cheeks. “And you’re a damn good cook.” He stepped closer and took the dish from the blond, not pulling back.

“I try.” Jack’s eyes seemed to light up and his arm was warm as he settled it around Ken’s waist. “Is that a yes then?”

“It’s a start.” Ken leaned in and lightly brushed his lips over Jack’s, smiling before he tilted his head and kissed him deeply. “Merry Christmas, Jack.” He finally pulled back and glanced at the dish. “So what’s this?”

“Well, I’m glad you asked. It’s lamb spendini with yoghurt sauce and a mushroom oregano risotto…trust me when I say it’s simply to die for.”

[The End 2]

—–

Roundsman (Tournant) [tuʀ.nã] – Also referred to as a swing cook. Fills in as needed on station in kitchen.

Aboyeur – Also known as the Expediator. Takes the orders from the dining room and relays them to the stations in the kitchen. This person also often puts the finishing touches on the dish before it goes to the dining room.

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