Christmas At Kiryu Labs
rating: +48+x

new butterfly (has plenty)
jewelry (doesn't care about it)
new laptop ($$$)
clothes (lame)
concert tickets (no concerts soon)

Mark Kiryu leaned back in his office chair, tapping his pen against the side of his head. Every time a half-decent idea popped into his head, logic shot it down. Dammit, what kind of a brother was he? He had run through this exhausting song-and-dance every Christmas of his adult life, and only for his sister. His parents were easy to buy for, and so were his friends. Riven didn't celebrate Christmas, but would appreciate a small token of gratitude here or there. He'd get a dried fruit basket for Shen, and receive a box of chocolates in return, just like every year. But his perfect system of notes and lists about what to get for everyone fell apart when it came to Zyn. His main problem with gifting: she was just too good at it.

When he was 17, he bought her a new Sony Walkman for Christmas. She got him a box filled with his favorite candies and sweets, along with a new wallet to replace his duct-taped mess that he'd complained about to her the week previous.

When she turned 21, he took her for her first drink and bought a fine wine. She gifted him a handmade copy of the scrapbook she had made collecting all her favorite memories with her family.

On his 28th birthday, she somehow managed to pull enough strings and call in enough favors to get Mark 10 minutes with SCP-999. For her 23rd, he got her earrings.

In short, Zyn was ten times the gifter he was. But after last year's fiasco involving his gift of an arrangement of Glad Roaches (which turned out to be Bad Roaches), he'd decided; this year, Mark would finally produce a heartfelt gift of such overwhelming thoughtfulness that he would finally be freed from his lifelong gift-debt.

That is, if he could think of one.

So far, that didn't seem to be the case. All his ideas were… boring, mundane. They weren't thoughtful. He needed something impressive, something grandstanding, something unique to-

"Mark? You're still here?"

Riven Mercer stood in the doorway, holding a steaming Foundation-seal mug.

"Hey Rivs. Yeah, just uh, just getting some work done. You know how it is."

Riven raised an eyebrow, glancing at the mountain of crumpled Post-its in the trashcan.

"That doesn't look like work to me."

Mark sighed and laughed.

"Yeah, you got me. I'm trying to think of a Christmas gift for Zyn."

"She likes butterflies, how about something related to that?"

"Already thought about it. She's got everything there is to have for butterfly-keepers. And I've already gotten her new butterflies before. I need something… special. It's gotta be really impressive, y'know?"

"Why's that?"

"She always gets me these real thought-out and unique gifts. And then I get her something boring and store-made. So, this year, I'm going all out."

He glanced dejectedly at the overflowing trash can.

"'Cept I'm all out of ideas."

Riven nodded before glancing at the clock.

"Well, I've always been told that what matters is the message, not the gift. But if you have both, more power to you. I have to be getting home now, though — see you tomorrow, Mark."

"Nigh- hold on, Rivs."

Riven peered through the half-closed door.

"Do you think… you could, I don't know, maybe ask her what she wants? Real casual? And tell me? Pretty please?"

Riven smiled and shook his head, shutting the door behind him.

Mark returned to his brainstorming.

The phrase bounced around in his brain — "What matters is the message, not the gift." Something was there, he could feel it, just on the edge of his brain. The message, not the gift.

Then it clicked.

He glanced at his watch. Good, it wasn't too late - they should still be up. He grabbed the phone on his desk and lifted it to his ear, punching in a number of a Site office. Time to call in a favor of his own.


"Paging Researcher Zyn Kiryu to Aviary 17. Zyn Kiryu to Aviary 17."

Zyn looked up from her desk, her data entry half-finished. Riven met her eyes.

"Sounds important. You better not keep 'em waiting. Though a part of me says you should — serves 'em right for scheduling us to work on Christmas."

"I thought you didn't celebrate Christmas?"

"I don't, but I do celebrate days off."

Zyn snickered before getting up and briskly exiting the office area of Kiryu Labs, leaving the door swinging behind her.

A few minutes of walking through the deserted research wing of Site-19 and then the more bustling biological containment wing later, Zyn arrived at the door to Aviary 17. A placard by the door read "CURRENTLY HOUSING: SCP-408". She opened the door and stepped inside. To her surprise, her brother stood by the glass window looking into the large meshed enclosure.

"Mark? What's going on?"

"They asked for you, sis."

"W- the butterflies?"

"Yeah. They say they have a message for you."

He leaned forward, pressing a button on the wall-mounted intercom.

"She's here."

He motioned Zyn forward.

Inside, all was still. The green bushes and hanging trees obscured vision into the depths of the enclosure. She began to wonder whether this was a joke or something. 408? Her dream project asking for her?

Suddenly, the greenery exploded. Butterflies flooded out of every branch, leaf, and crevice, forming a swirling, shifting mass in the center of the enclosure. She gasped. Slowly, they began to settle down, covering every visible surface with their black wings. Mark handed her a pen and paper.

"Note down what they say."

She gulped and nodded.

A splotch of color appeared on one of the butterflies. It spread out and twisted a little before stopping and leaping over to a new spot, and spreading out in a different pattern. She realized they were letters, and began scribbling.

A few seconds later, she held the notepad in front of her, the kaleidoscope of butterflies still spread out in her line of sight. She read aloud.

My little sister
My best friend, my pride and joy
Merry Christmas, Zyn.

She looked at her brother. Mark smiled.

"Merry Christmas, sis."

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