The snow drifted, blanketing the city in a layer of white and turning it into an impressionist painting. It crunched under Samui’s boots as she strolled through the streets towards the Lurker’s Retreat. She stopped at the corner of the street that the Retreat was on and looked at her watch. A few minutes later, she pulled her scarf away from her mouth and took a deep breath.
o/ It came upon the midnight clear,
that glorious song of old,
from Angels bending near the Earth,
to touch their Harps of gold:
“Peace on the Earth, good will to Men,
from Heaven’s all Gracious King”;
the world in solemn stillness lay
to hear the Angels sing. o/
Her soft, clear voice carried far in the cold night. Some of the more sober regulars of the bar peeked out to see for themselves where the singing was coming from.
o/ And you, beneath Life’s crushing load,
whose forms are bending low,
who toil along the climbing way
with painful steps and slow,
look now! For glad and golden Hours
come swiftly on the wing:
O rest beside the weary load
and hear the Angels sing. o/
As she sang, Samui remembered the first time that she, Bulma, and Trunks had gone caroling in the Western Capitol. Later, someone who lived there told her that their songs had given him hope and reminded him that the world wasn’t always a cold, cruel place. After that, no matter where Samui spent the holidays, she always made sure to gather together a group and sing.
o/ For lo, the days are hastening on,
by Prophet seen of old,
when, with the ever circling Years,
shall come the Time foretold,
When the new Heaven and Earth shall own
the Prince of Peace their King,
and the whole world send back the song
which now the Angels sing. o/
“You never told me you could sing, Samui,” Talon remarked, walking up to Samui. “Merry Christmas.”
“Merry Christmas.” Samui smiled back. “Well, now you know. Care to join me?”
“Sure! I have to warn you, though, I don’t have the greatest singingvoice.”
“That’s all right, it’s the thought that counts.” Samui lookedpensive for a while. “How about ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem?'”
Talon nodded. “Sure, I know that one.”
“Great. You sing the melody, and I’ll sing alto.”
“Okay.” Talon tapped out a beat, and the two began to sing.
o/ O, little town of Bethlehem,
how still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
the silent stars go by;
yet in thy dark streets shineth
the everlasting Light.
The hopes and fears of all the years
are met in thee tonight! o/
“I’m afraid that’s all the words I know,” Talon admitted.”How about we sing another song?”
“Hark, the Herald Angels sing?” Samui suggested.
“Who’s Harold Angel?” Talon joked.
o/ Hark, the Herald Angels sing:
“Glory to the newborn King!”
Peace on Earth and Mercy mild,
God and Sinners reconciled!
Joyful, all ye Nations rise!
Join the Triumph in the skies!
With the Angelic Host proclaim:
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”
Hark, the Herald Angels sing:
“Glory to the newborn King!” o/
And on it went.
The cold air stung Kimiko’s lungs as she drew in each breath, and the snow made it hard for her to run, but she kept going. Soon, St. John’s park came into view, as well as the temple Kimiko had remembered seeing but not paying much attention to before. She tore up the steps and almost pulled the door off it’s hinges in her haste.
“Onee—” Ahlen never got to finish because Kimiko caught him in a joyous, tight hug. For a good while, neither said anything.
Finally, Kimiko let go and wiped the tears from her eyes. “I can’t believe you’re here. I thought you were gone for good.”
Ahlen smiled back through his own tears. “Well, it was getting a bit boring in the Dream Realm, so I decided to come back!”
“It’s good to have you back,” Kimiko assured with another hug. She let go, wiping a stray tear from her eye. By now, Kimiko became aware of the other people in the house. “Lyta, is it?”
Lyta nodded with a warm smile. “Sister Dearest?” she tested.
The agent laughed. “Please, one person of that is enough!” She looked around the cozy house. “I guess you’re not coming back to the apartment, Ahlen?”
Ahlen shook his head, putting an arm around Lyta. “We’ve been charged to protect this shrine. It’s complicated, but it’s where we really belong. Secluded but not apart from the rest of the world.”
Kimiko nodded. Then she spotted the other person in the room. “And this is?” she prompted, indicating the lady with the fox-like ears.
“This is Kokutan,” Lyta introduced. “And where’s Ely—”
As if her name was a summons, Elyssa came into the room, carrying a box. “Wow, I didn’t think this house came with Christmas ornaments too. Oh.” She spotted Kimiko.
Kimiko regarded the young girl with shameful eyes. Elyssa was supposed to be dead because of her. She got the girl involved. Yet somehow she lived. But she couldn’t accept the fact that it was her own fault for putting her at risk. She averted her gaze, not wanting to stare into the innocent girl’s eyes.
Lyta picked up on some tension. Her father was a good judge of character and a good listener. Part of it from trying to understand her mother whenever she needed to explain herself. And he taught her how to listen, too, and that meant reading people’s expressions. And Lyta had a fair guess at what might be the tension coming between Elyssa and Kimiko.
She loosened her shoulders and relaxed. “I think we really need to sit down and talk.”
Talon sat down in Samui’s living room and let the mug of hot cocoa warm his freezing hands. Samui, holding her own mug, sat down on the neighboring sofa.
“You do this every year?” Talon asked.
Samui nodded, taking a small sip from her mug. “I try to. One year, though, I got sick and pretty much sounded like a female Darth Vader.”
Talon couldn’t help but chuckle at that thought.
Someone knocked at the door, and Samui rose to open it.
“Hey! Ace Bandage here, with a package for ya!” The short rocket jockey greeted. Spotting Talon out of the corner of his eye, Ace clapped his hands together. “Great! This saves me a trip.” He dug into his large mail bundle and brought out a small flat box and a large long box. “The bigger one’s yours,” Ace explained, handing the boxes to Samui.
Samui stared at the boxes in her hands for a moment before looking back up to Ace. “Thank you.”
“I’m just the delivery boy, and no, I don’t know who sent them,” Ace replied. “Well, I’ve got other gifts to deliver, so I’ll be off! Merry Christmas!”
“Merry Christmas.” Samui closed the door and walked back into the living room. “A bit strange, isn’t it?”
“Yeah,” Talon agreed, taking the box from Samui. He inspected the wrapping, which was decorated with adorable winged cherubs, and wondered what was inside. “Are you going to open it?”
Samui contemplated the ribbon-wrapped trumpets adorning her box. “You first.”
Talon carefully pulled away the tape holding the wrapping together, then lifted the top of the box away. He drew in a breath as two crystalline turtle doves glittered back at him from the cotton lining of the box. He took one out by the golden chain through its left wing and marveled at the exquisite marksmanship. Even Samui seemed to be impressed.
Talon put the turtle dove back into the box. “Your turn.”
Samui tore the wrapping away and pulled off the box top.
She blinked again as she held up a low cut, black, silk negligee.
A piece of paper fluttered to the ground as Samui took the negligee out of the box. Talon picked it up and handed it to Samui.
“Here’s a little something from me to you,” Samui read. “Merry Christmas and Have a Nice Day. Signed, You Know Who.”
Talon raised his hands. “It wasn’t me, I swear!”
Samui stared at the yellow happy face drawn on the paper. “I believe you, Talon.”
Talon looked at the negligee. “I hope whoever gave it to you isn’t expecting you to wear that.”