Tooth rooting fluff ahead. Enjoy.
Jackie Maclean is beyond surprised when she receives a visit from Ram Singh, four days before Christmas.
"Hey, Miss Maclean," he says politely. She has to admit he's never been anything but polite. She'd just initially been a bit blinded by the shock of knowing he'd been having sex with her daughter to appreciate that.
He looks exhausted, poor thing. She knows that he lost his father, on the day she lost use of her legs again. A part of her wants to hug him tightly, but she's inhibited by the wheelchair, and also the fact that she doesn't think they're at the level for hugs yet.
"Hello Ram," she says with a smile, instead. "What can I do for you?"
"It's about April's Christmas present. I'm sure you've already got her something, but I had an idea."
Jackie sits Ram down with a hot chocolate as he explains the reasoning behind his suggestion. Jackie knows what happened in the auditorium, that April confronted Corakinus and sacrificed herself, only for April to get lucky and make it out alive.
"We don't know what happened, exactly," Ram says slowly. "There was this soul, one soul left, and it tried to go for Charlie, but Quill tackled him out of the way. And then it came at me. And I just - I wasn't really thinking, I just sort of grabbed it, you know?" He gives a funny little shrug and smile. "Athlete's instinct, maybe."
"And then what happened?"
"Well, April was dead. That was all I could really think about, you know?" Ram takes a deep breath, and Jackie knows how hard it must be for him to remember, because it's almost physically painful just for her to hear. "And I guess somehow the soul… took that into account. Because April woke up. Charlie says the Cabinet was meant to be used by a hero to resurrect his people. It didn't quite work out how he wanted, but he reckons that… I was the hero. Because everyone seems to think it was me that brought April back."
"Then it seems I owe you," Jackie says, amazed and horrified all at once.
Ram shakes his head. "It's not like I even… meant to do it. Besides, it was meant to resurrect people in the bodies of those the cabinet had wiped out, so really, she should probably have woken up in Corakinus' body. Quill reckons it's because April had been sharing his heart, she'd had Shadowkin blood in her veins, so the soul probably got confused, but that it could have gone either way. We got lucky."
Jackie is glad to know what actually happened, she thinks, but part of her knows she would have probably rested easier not knowing the full truth.
"Well, all the same, thank you," Jackie says, reaching out and giving his hand a squeeze, making him look at her with surprise.
He gives her a tight little smile, and runs his other hand through his hair. "Anyway, the point is… she literally died, and got brought back to life. And I think it had to have been, you know, way more traumatic than she's letting on. So I was thinking, maybe we could get her something to help with that."
Christmas morning goes very much how it always does. April and Jackie open their presents while wearing Santa hats, and April fawns over the two new dresses Jackie has bought her, while Jackie is delighted with the jewellery and blouse she's received.
"Are you ready for part two?" Jackie asks, with a mischievous grin.
April gives her a funny look, an uncertain smile curling the corners of her lips. "What do you mean? What have you done?"
"You'll have to wait and see."
They pick up Ram on their journey. April's confused grin only gets wider when her boyfriend joins them.
"Okay, guys, seriously, what's going on?"
"You'll have to wait and see," Jackie says, with a grin. "Ram gets the credit for the idea, though I'm paying, so my input shouldn't be discounted."
It's about a half an hour drive, and Jackie is happy to put up with seeing Ram constantly looking at April with an easy tenderness that makes her heart ache. Any ill will she'd borne towards Ram has long since disappeared. It's obvious how much he just wants to see her safe and happy.
April is getting excited, Jackie can tell, no matter how much it is hidden behind her constant questions about where they're going.
When they finally pull up outside All Dogs Matter, April's jaw drops as they help Jackie out of the car.
"Thought it would be kind of obvious at this point," Ram says with a little grin, only for her to elbow him in the side.
"Mum, is what I think is happening actually happening?" April asks.
"If what you think is happening is that we're going inside and choosing you a furry new friend, on your - dare I say - rather wonderful boyfriend's suggestion, then yes, it is," Jackie replies.
April covers her giddy laughter with her hand, before getting slightly distracted, looking between her mother and her boyfriend. "You just called him wonderful."
"Yes, I did," Jackie says, lips curling.
"Only you could win over my mum after the horrendous start you had," April says to Ram, grabbing his hand and kissing his cheek.
He grins. "You know me, always the charmer. No woman can resist this smile, seriously."
Jackie rolls her eyes. "Come on, you two. I'm here for a puppy, not puppy love."
"Mum," April complains, while Ram chuckles at the bad joke.
The three of them head inside, and are greeted by a receptionist that Jackie has talked to over the phone, when she'd had to arrange the application and house inspection (that she'd taken care of under April's nose). All the paperwork is arranged; they just need to actually select the dog.
"Through here, then," the man says, smiling at April.
They're lead through to where about a dozen dogs of varying ages, but mostly puppies, are waiting in an enclosed space.
"Oh my god," April squeals, clutching a hand to her chest. "Is this real? Is this actually happening? Am I actually choosing one of these little guys?"
"Yes, it's really happening," Ram says, laughing.
"Go on," Jackie says, nodding towards the dogs.
April steps into the pen and is immediately bombarded by adorable fluffy animals, and she sits on the ground and lets them paw at her, laughing.
"Ram, get in here, I'll need help deciding!"
"Is that what we're calling it now?" Ram chuckles, while getting in without hesitation. He sits by April, and it warms Jackie's heart to see these two teenagers, who have gone through so much that she knows of and even more that she doesn't, smiling and laughing so genuinely as the small dogs shower them with excitement and affection.
There's one dog that is more mild than the others, settling on April's lap while the others jump all over her. Once the puppies have all calmed down a bit, she's able to pat the mild one and get her hand licked. It looks to be a staffy, possibly crossed with something else, but Jackie's hardly a dog expert.
"Aw, this one's so sweet," April coos. "What's it's name?"
"She's called Gracie at the moment, but you can rename whichever dog you end up choosing," the ADM man tells her, smiling.
April considers the dog. "You don't quite look like a Gracie." The puppy nibbles her fingers and April visibly melts, bending over to rub her face against the puppy's fur. "This one, Mum. I want this one."
Jackie has to admit, a staffy isn't quite what she'd had in mind. "Are you sure?"
"The dog's had a hard time, but she's also one of the gentlest temperaments here," the ADM man assures her quietly.
April rubs the puppy's ears. "Ram, what do you think?"
Ram strokes the top of the pup's head, and gets himself licked gently. "I like this one too," he agrees.
"You said I could name her? If I wanted her?" April asks. She gets a nod. "I think…" She sits there, regarding the dog carefully, while its tail wags a little. "Honey. You're Honey now, and you're all mine. Yes you are!"
She says the last bit in a cooing baby voice and buries her face into the puppy's neck, giggling when she gets licked again.
Ram looks at Jackie, and they share a smile.
Honey does not like the car. Honey cries and tries to run around manically, and April has to keep a tight hold on her and stroke her head gently. Singing ends up having a partial calming effect, so April sings softly to the puppy, who eventually calms down in the second half of the drive.
Jackie had been hoarding puppy supplies in her bedroom, so they get home and set up Honey's bed and food bowl and make plans for April and Ram to take Honey for a walk later, so long as it isn't too long, since it's cold out.
"Best Christmas present ever," April says to both her mother and Ram, hugging them tightly in turn. "Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you."
"Well, she's your responsibility now, April. I can only do so much," Jackie reminds her.
"I know, don't worry, I'll totally cover everything," April says, nodding vigorously.
On Boxing Day, April invites over Tanya, Charlie, and Matteusz to meet her puppy. Honey gets all the attention and praise and pats that she deserves. It's fairly obvious the dog has never been so happy in her whole life.
"She is so cute," Tanya says, rubbing Honey's tummy while the pup is on her back with her tail wagging furiously.
"She is quite adorable," Charlie says to April, with a big grin.
"She's the best girl ever," April says, joining Tanya in the tummy rubbing, making the pup bark happily. Matteusz smiles from where he is sitting nearby, and Charlie sits down next to him, and leans against the couch they're next to.
Ram is sitting by April, and she leans in to kiss him.
"Best Christmas present ever. Best boyfriend ever," she tells him, with a besotted smile that makes Jackie shake her head fondly from where she's sitting in her chair nearby (reading, theoretically, but mostly watching the teenagers).
"I disagree. Matteusz is the best boyfriend ever," Charlie argues seriously.
"I feel like it's a title we could share," Ram retorts. "You can be the best gay boyfriend, and I can be the best-"
"Choose your next words very carefully, Ram," Tanya says, without looking up from where she is texting rapidly.
Ram makes a face, stops to consider the various options that are before him for continuing the sentence, but in the end, wisely chooses to say nothing other than, "You guys know what I mean."
Matteusz shakes his head. "I disagree. There can only be one best boyfriend."
"Ooooooh," Tanya says, looking up from where she'd been texting. "Boyfriend challenge issued. Fight, fight, fight, fight!"
"No, don't fight!" Charlie says, alarmed.
"We will have contest," Matteusz says, chuckling and kissing Charlie's cheek. "A non-violent contest. But I will not go easy on him."
"Bring it, giraffe boy," Ram says, earning an indignant look from Matteusz.
Honey barks, distracting them, and April laughs at the situation. "Look at us, not paying enough attention to you," she says to the puppy, kissing her head and pulling her into her lap. "You're the team mascot now."
"What, Honey, the Bunghole Defence Squad Mascot?" Tanya asks.
"Exactly," April says with a big smile, kissing Honey again, and grinning even wider when Ram kisses her cheek for good measure. "Welcome to the team, Honey."
Thanks for reading!