“Feed us fiddy puddin’!” Declared Alice, looking like a mushroom straight out of Wonderland in her winter outfit.
Irene chuckled. “Nono, dear. We start from the first verse, remember?”
“Fiddy puddin’! Fiddy puddin’!” The little girl repeated, clapping her hands at her captive audience.
Adam lifted her by the waist, swinging her upside down before setting her on his shoulders, letting her steer him as he pretended she was too heavy for him and staggered around the room. “So, not-girlfriend,” he called backwards towards Irene, “when were you planning to tell me that you got yourself knocked up with my spawn?”
“Never,” Irene confessed. “I was hoping to trick Forseti into a shotgun wedding, but I kind of forgot Alice-chan inherited my genes too. She spilled the beans, then Forseti monologued at me for like an hour—long story short, here I am.”
Adam shook his head. “You’re incorrigible.”
Irene was now joined by her other self, bearing gifts and the largest turkey Adam had ever seen—labeled, of course, with his name on it. “Why thank you, sweetheart!”
Joseph was about to let himself in the old apartment he shared with Washuu and Anne when Falora approached. He smiled at her. “Hello, stranger.”
She smiled back. “Hello yourself.”
They laughed and exchanged an awkward hug. Joseph kicked the snow off his boots and unlocked the door, letting Falora in first. “Hot cocoa?”
“That’d be nice, thanks.” Falora looked around at the layer of dust covering all the furniture. “Hard to imagine all this time has passed—in my mind, you’re still that tow-headed little kid who got into fights with Anne all the time.”
“Who’re you calling a kid?” Joseph joked as he set a kettle of water on the range, than began searching through the cabinets. “Now, where’d I put the non-perishables?”
Falora drew a rune into the air; it flew towards the closet next to the refrigerator. “Try that one.”
“Thanks.” Joseph opened it and discovered some packets of hot cocoa after some rummaging. “So how long’re you staying?”
“The weekend, at least. Shimaru-sensei’s hosting dinner at his place, and I’d like to drop in on whoever’s still around.” Falora looked out the window. “Everything’s changed so much.”
Joseph stared at the pot, waiting for it to boil. “Yeah.”
Samui held the infant in her arms, tracing her fingers over the baby’s tiny, perfect features. “She’s beautiful,” she breathed. “And now she’s ours, just like that.”
Talong hugged her, wrapping an arm around her waist and kissing the back of her neck. “Yeah.” He reached over her shoulder to play with the infant’s fingers. “Hi, Ciel. I’m Talon, your new daddy.” He indicated Samui. “This is Samui, your new mommy, the most wonderful woman in the whole world.”
Samui tweaked Talon’s nose. “You’re just saying that so you can get into my pants later.”
Talon feigned hurt. “Not in front the kid, honey!”
Washuu appeared over their shoulders, beaming. “See? You didn’t have anything to worry about at all.”
“Well, if you have to ask I still think you pulled some strings to help us through all those adoption papers—” Upon seeing Washuu pout, Samui smiled. “But seriously, thank you. This has been the best Christmas present I’ve ever gotten.”
“It was my pleasure,” Washuu replied, grinning now. “How else am I going to get my half dozen grand-kids?”
“Stop that,” Shimaru grumbled, hands in his pockets and eyes fixed to a spot three feet in front of him.
“I can’t help it,” Falora gushed and twirled again, the ribbons of her outfit trailing behind in a merry dance. “It’s Christmas!”
Argh. A goddess wasn’t supposed to have this kind of effect on him. She had to be cheating, just like that blasted wing-nut Kai. “People are staring.”
“Oh, so they are. Merry Christmas!” Falora waved at a gawking passerby, and her mood was so infectious that they, too, smiled and waved back. “See? Crisis averted.”
Shimaru just slouched over further. Of all the days that a hole didn’t open up under him and swallow him into the depths of the earth, why did it have to be today? “Ki yi yippie yai yay.”
Falora rolled her eyes but continued forward, skipping down the street and spreading her joy to all those who would receive it.
The cold didn’t bother Nataku as much as the ridiculousness of being dragged out to a dead world to, of all things, accompany Washuu and her newest ward so they could go do carols, whatever that meant. But she was smart enough to keep her mouth shut, because she had also been roped into the elaborate preparations necessary to travel to an alternate universe that was otherwise closed to both travelers and refugees.
Whatever Nataku thought of their actions, it was obvious that they felt it was important enough, so she followed them at a discreet distance and kept her eye out for danger.
The one accompanying Washuu, the one with disheveled long green hair, stepped off the curb and raised her head towards the starry sky.
“Angels we have heard on high
Singing sweetly o’er the plains
And the mountains in reply
Echo back their joyous strains.”