Author's Note: I really wanted to do a second Thanksgiving chapter, but every time I tried, I realized that I couldn't come up with things for the group to be thankful for without it sounding like it was a repeat of the first part. So, I decided to just step into Christmas.
It's Beginning to Feel A Lot Like Christmas...
"What does snow feel like?" Evie asked as she, Mal, and Jane were lounging around Fairy Godmother's house. It was Saturday evening, and the first day after Auradon Prep had let out for Christmas break. The dorms and halls were empty and students were back home, or on their way back home – unless you were Evie and Raymond. Snow White and Florian had had a small matter of state to deal with and decided to fly the two teens home the following Monday. They gave permission to the both of them to spend the weekend with friends so Raymond was with Jay and Carlos over at Coach and Liz's while Evie opted for a girl's weekend with her other sisters.
"Huh?" asked Jane, confused by the question.
"Snow? What's it feel like?" Evie repeated.
Jane looked back at the blue-nette weirdly.
"We don't get snow on the Isle," Mal cleared up for Jane since she knew Jane wouldn't get the source of the question.
"Never?" Jane asked in surprise.
Mal shook her head. "Just overcast skies."
"That's so sad," Jane whimpered.
"It's a prison," Mal and Evie responded in unison.
"Why the sudden interest in snow?" Mal said. "It's not like we got any here right now," she said casting an almost dejected glance out the window where the ground was surprisingly still green.
"That's because we're so close to the coast," Jane told her. "The warm air keeps the snow away until right around Christmas."
"The interest is because unlike here, it's snowing in Snow's kingdom already," Evie answered Mal.
Mal looked to Jane. "They're farther north, its gets colder faster, they get snow earlier."
"So you're going to see the white stuff when you go there?" Mal asked Evie, suddenly realizing what the questions were about.
Jane sat where she was and thought for a moment. "When its falling, it feels like really cold rain," she then answered. Mal and Evie just looked at her like she was speaking gibberish. "What? It is just water – really, really cold water - but still water."
"Somehow I expected a more…magical answer," Evie said glumly.
"Snow isn't magic," Jane told her. "It's just…snow; at least when it's falling. Now once it's on the ground, that's a different story. It's soft, and powdery, and you can have fun in it all day," she said with a playful smile on her face.
"We've heard stories that people throw it at each other," Mal said to the younger half-fairy.
Jane nodded. "Snowballs," she said happily. "Well, at least if you're having a snowball fight."
"You fight in the snow?" Evie said.
"It's not really fighting," Jane told them. "You just do it to have fun. You roll some snow into a ball and throw it at each other. Just make sure none gets inside your clothes and you don't get hit in the back of the head. It makes them both wet, and there's nothing worse that wet clothes or hair when you're outside."
Evie's eyes widened at the sound of wet clothes and hair. "You know what, I'm staying inside," she said nervously.
Jane was mentally slapping herself for not choosing her words better and was about to tell Evie that it sounded worse than she really made it out to be when she heard her mother calling from the front of the house.
"Girls, I'm home."
"Do we really have to be here?" Jay asked impatiently as he moved through the mall with Liz, Coach, Carlos and the twins. They had just dropped Raymond at airport so he and Evie could fly up to Snow White's kingdom. Right after, Liz insisted that they get to the mall so that the family could get some shopping done, especially Jay and Carlos since she knew that they probably hadn't gotten anybody gifts while they were at school.
"Yes, because since this is your first Christmas here in Auradon, you should do it right, and that means Christmas shopping," Liz smiled as she held the twins hands so they didn't run off toward the play area or worse…the toy store. "Besides, if we can get it done today, we won't have to worry about doing it at the very last minute, in the snow, like a lot of other people will be."
"There's no snow," Carlos pointed out.
"The weatherman says it's gonna hit in the next day or two," Liz corrected him.
"And it's gonna hit hard," Coach added.
Carlos just looked at Liz like something was on his mind.
"What is it sweetie?" she asked him.
"You really expect me to believe that you waited this long to get your Christmas shopping done? Uh-uh," he shook his head.
That boy is a lot more perceptive than he thinks, she thought as she looked at the boy she thought of as her middle son. She smiled as she realized that he was also correct. She'd gotten her shopping done at the beginning of the month. She'd even managed to get Sam to tag along and now all their gifts were wrapped and under the tree.
But she knew Jay and Carlos wouldn't have gotten anyone their gifts. She knew it was a matter of not being able to while at school, but she also knew it was because they weren't accustomed to having to do actual gift shopping.
"Fine, you two need to get gifts," she said to Carlos in mock sarcasm.
"I doubt Mal and Evie are expecting gifts from us," Jay told her.
"Always assume women are expecting a gift, boys," Coach told them. He then cast half guilty, half impatient glance at his wife. "It's safer for you."
Liz smiled sweetly, and victoriously, at her husband. "At the very least, you need to get your girlfriends something," she told them.
Jay chuckled and Carlos groaned. They thought this might happen, and the both of them were dreading it.
"What now?" Liz asked them. "And don't tell me its money, Belle called us to let us know that Ben said all you have to do is send the bill to the palace, they'll take care of it."
"Yeah, but what do you get the girl who can literally get anything herself," Jay joked…mostly.
"We'll think of something," she told him. Jay just shrugged. "What about you, Carlos? Any clue as to what you might want to get Jane?"
"Uh, I got a couple of ideas, but I can't really decide," he said sheepishly.
Liz almost awed at the sound of that. She liked knowing that at least one of her elder boys was embracing the holiday spirit. Plus it gave her an excuse to pry just a little bit about how things were going with his girlfriend. He'd gotten with Jane so close to the end of summer that she hadn't really gotten to talk to him about her. At least Jay gave me the summer to get to know Audrey, she mused.
"Don't worry, like Jay, I'll help you too, sweetie."
The main family room was filled with sounds of Christmas music and the smells of fresh baked cookies. The massive fireplace that was nestled into the back wall held a bright, roaring fire that was warming the room. Standing a few feet to right, near the corner of the room, stood a twelve foot Christmas tree. Evie, Snow White, Florian, and Raymond were gathered around it, decorating various parts with ornaments colored in vivid reds, blues, yellows, whites, silver, and gold. There were also other, more personal and intimate ornaments that Evie could tell were family heirlooms.
Right now, Evie was standing close to her sister, each one decorating their own part of the tree. She was just finishing up placing some ornaments that looked like Christmas stars amongst the regular looking ornaments and, shocking as they were to her, apples that Snow insisted be hung as well.
"Does this look okay?" she asked out loud.
Snow walked over and took a look at Evie's arrangement. She nodded her head. "You do good work," she complimented. She watched as her little sister beamed from the praise. Snow smiled, but then realized something that she felt needed addressing. "Florian, me and Evie are going to go make some hot chocolate. You and Ray keep decorating the tree – but no letting Raymond put the star on the top until I get back," she said, looking up at her husband who was standing on a step ladder to help him reach the top of the tree. He nodded and Snow led Evie away.
Once in the kitchen, the sisters began getting the ingredients together. Snow hated instant hot chocolate and refused to have it in the castle. Instead, she preferred to make it from scratch, as much work as that was. Evie found it strange at first since on the Isle, most things like chocolate didn't exist. She'd heard about it, and hot chocolate, from listening to the adults on the island as they lamented over the little things they missed since being imprisoned. Her first exposure to chocolate however wasn't until the limo ride over from the Isle when they learned that they were coming to Auradon. Back at school, she never saw how it was made, but she assumed it was probably done the way Snow did it.
"Evie, honey, can I ask you a question?" Snow said cautiously as she stirred the ingredients in the pan. Evie nodded hesitantly. "We've talked a lot about Mom, and how she acted with you growing up, and you said that she never mistreated you physically. But I never asked how treated you…emotionally."
"I don't think I know what you mean," Evie said as she leaned on the counter and watched Snow stir the mixture of cocoa, sugar, water, and salt while waiting for it to begin to boil.
"Well, ever since you got here and started helping us with the decorations to the family room, and other parts of the castle, your bedroom, and now the tree, I've noticed that every time you finish a section, you ask if it looks okay, or if you did it right."
"And that's a problem?" Evie asked, starting to feel a little defensive.
"No…no it is not," Snow said quickly, trying to keep Evie from becoming agitated or going on the defense. "But you are doing it a lot. And well, when Mom was sent to the Isle and I was placed with a guardian…I did the same thing. The exact same thing – for months." Evie just looked at Snow, not knowing what to say. "Mom might have turned me into the maid, but she was never physically abusive toward me. But that didn't stop her from always saying that I was never good enough. That everything I did needed to be redone because –"
"She won't have anything less than perfect in her house," Evie finished for her sister. Snow nodded. "She just wanted to make sure that I did my best," Evie said softer than she wanted to. She wanted to sound like she was defending her mother, but hearing Snow reveal that she was told the same thing, and hearing the emotional, almost sad tone to it, made her feel like the wind had gotten taken out of her intentions. She knew that Snow didn't hold any anger toward their mother, but hearing this made Evie realize that not everything was okay with some of Snow's memories.
"Sweetheart, there's encouraging someone to do their best, and then there's…well, there's no gentle way to put this for you. Then there's tearing someone down and masking it behind the argument of "I'm just trying to –"
"Make you the best you, you can be," Evie once again finished, this time her eyes glassed over from her starting to tear up. Snow turned off the burner and walked to her sister. She stood behind her and wrapped her arms around her in a tight – maternal, not sisterly – hug. She brought her face right next to Evie's, her lips by Evie's ear.
"In this home, you don't ever have to ask if what you've done is alright…or if it's good enough…or if you're good enough, understand me?" She felt Evie nod her head slightly. "And this might sound strange, but – I don't expect you to be the best. I only expect you to try your best. Again, do you understand me, Sweetie?"
Evie nodded again, much more noticeably this time. Snow gave her a small, reassuring kiss on the cheek, and almost felt like crying herself as she felt the moisture on Evie's face.
"Thank you," Evie sobbed as the two of them stood there, Evie for once feeling like some of the pressure of the last seventeen years was melting away.
The palace felt alive with the feeling of Christmas. Ben, Belle, and Adam had opened the castle to the staff and their families, friends, to people who lived in the immediate area, and to the other royal families – though most of them opted to stay in their own kingdoms, and celebrate with their families and traditions. That meant, much to Mal's disappointment, that Evie was not there to celebrate with them. But after the conversation the two of them ad over a heart to heart that Snow and Evie had, Mal was completely fine with it. Sometimes Mal realized that she needed to let Evie expand her own family much in the same way she was expanding her own with Ben and his parents, and with Fairy Godmother and Jane.
Right now she and Ben were making their way away from the castle along one of the paths that led to the grounds. Mal was dressed for her first real winter in a purple knee-length wool coat and a green beanie with matching green gloves. They had made it a few feet when they heard Fairy Godmother call out, "Don't stay out too long, Mal, you're not totally used to this weather yet."
"Yes, Mom," she yelled back, getting a chuckle from Ben and a smile from Fairy Godmother.
"So, I'm guessing calling you 'Mom' is becoming more and more the norm?" Belle asked as she watched her son and his girlfriend walk off.
"She's definitely saying it more on purpose, not just as reflex," Fairy Godmother said, failing at trying not to smile at the thought.
Back on the path, Ben and Mal were casually walking along, Mal's arm looped through Ben's, holding herself close to him while they moved. Despite her apprehension over the cold weather since the Isle never really went past warm and gloomy, she was starting to love the feel of the cold air. The bite of the chilled air made her feel more alive and gave her the added benefit needing to hold herself closer to Ben.
"So how are you liking your first Auradon Christmas?" Ben asked.
"It's pretty fun. Don't get me wrong, I wish Evie was here, but I get that she needs some family time with Snow White. And, the snow is amazing," she answered, gushing at the end.
"I'm glad. I really wanted to you to enjoy it,' he said as he leaned down and planted a kiss on top of her hat covered head.
"Plus, who doesn't like getting presents?" she giggled.
Ben laughed with her. They had opened each other's presents earlier in the evening and he was amazed that she had been able to paint a portrait of him without needing him to hold still for her. And he loved how she looked totally surprised to see the bracelet he got her.
"I just wish Fairy Godmother had let me bring the ones from home to open here," she lamented.
"Not everyone opens their presents on Christmas Eve, some people actually wait until Christmas morning," he told her.
While Ben and Mal were enjoying their walk, Jane and Carlos had snuck off to go on one of the last horse-drawn carriage rides of the evening. It was one of her favorite things to do whenever she came over to the palace every year. Normally they stopped just before midnight so she made sure to get one in early. But this year, she had a boyfriend, and friends, and things that took up so much time that she nearly missed doing it this year.
"So why did we have to sneak over to take this ride?" Carlos asked as he sat in the back of the carriage, Jane curled up next to him, his arm around her.
"Because the guys running the carriages take a little longer on the last rides, and she doesn't like me on those.
"It's because she thinks something's gonna happen to you," Carlos chuckled.
"Yeah, but this time I have my cute, strong boyfriend to protect me," she smiled, leaning in to kiss him. Carlos blushed and squeezed her tighter to him. "And thank you again for the present," she said with another kiss.
"Did I get the right scent?"
"Totally," Jane confirmed. "I love the smell of lavender," she told him.
Carlos smiled. Thank you Liz, he thought.
Back at the castle, Jay and Audrey found themselves in one of the many empty parlors. They were sitting in front of the fireplace, the heat providing a nice contrast from the biting cold and snow outside. The couple decided to stay inside since Jay preferred the heat. Audrey liked to think that his Agrabah heritage made him dislike the cold.
"Are you sure that you liked the present?" Jay asked as he held Audrey who was sitting on top of him, back to front, the two of them looking at the fire as it blazed.
"I love it," she told him, snuggling deeper into him. "Just like I said I did the first ten times you asked."
"I know, but –"
Audrey reached back and up so she could press her finger to his lips. She then held up her right hand so the back of it was facing them, her fingers extended, and looked at the ring on one of her fingers. It was a small ring with a one carat stone that, while certainly looking real, Audrey could tell was not a real diamond that was set into a simple setting with a silver band.
"You wouldn't be the first boy to get me jewelry," she started, her finger still on his lips. "But usually when boys get it, it's because they're trying to impress me. 'Ooh, look at what I can afford'. And I won't say that it didn't used to work sometimes. But it gets old fast. You? You weren't trying to impress me. You just wanted to get me something nice. And that's why I love it."
She finally took her finger off his lips and turned to face him. She looked into his brown eyes and leaned in and kissed him on the lips. "Thank you," she whispered as she broke the kiss, only to lean in and kiss him again. Before they knew it, the two of them were making out, wondering how much time they had before someone came looking for them.
While Jay and Audrey were enjoying their moment alone, Carlos was helping Jane off of the carriage after it had arrived back from their ride. She took his hand and they started walking toward the castle, anxious to get inside for a while to enjoy the warmth after their time outside in the cold air. They weren't speaking, instead just enjoying holding each other's hand after the intimacy of the carriage.
They had almost made it to the castle's steps when Jane felt something cold and wet hit her in the back of the head.
"Hey," she whined as she swatted at the back of her head, trying to rid herself of the feeling of shock that was hitting her. "What gives?"
Suddenly, she and Carlos heard a loud, playfully wicked laugh. They turned their heads left and right until they spotted the source of the laughter.
"Mal," Jane shouted as she saw the girl she now thought of as an older sister standing next to her own boyfriend.
"You were right, J, snow is fun…especially the snowballs," she said, her and Ben breaking out in a fit of giggles.
Jane took a deep breath, bent down, and began to gather up some snow in her hands. "Jane, what are you…?" Carlos asked, trailing off when he realized where this was headed.
Jane was forming the snow she'd gathered into a tight ball as she stood up. "I'm going to return fire," she said with resolve.
"Jane, don't do it," Mal told her. "Don't you dare."
Jane just looked at the older fairy. She then looked over at her boyfriend. "I expect back up," she told him just before she threw the snowball with all her strength. Mal's shriek could be heard over a distance as the cold projectile hit her square in the face.
Rather than yell back however, Mal practically leapt to the ground and began gathering snow of her own. Jane did the same. Within seconds, the two girls were hurling snowball after snowball at each other. Eventually, their boyfriends joined in. Soon the sounds of shrieking, gasping and laughing could be heard as full blown snowball fight broke out.