Author's note: The whole story had been inspired by a certain, very cosy scene from Lacewood Productions's The Nutcracker Prince.

For those who don't know Martha yet, she is not in my way my OWN OC. She'd been created for "Nutcracker: Steampunk", a rather unusual take on original Hoffmann's tale created by the S. A. D. Theater in Moscow. I learned about this version in March 2016, and loved her - and the idea that Christian is now happily married - right away. The creators courteously let me use her in fanstuff, so here comes :)

(There are also illustrations to both chapter on my dA!)

It's their fourth Christmas together; for the fourth time, they are invited to the Stahlbaums, and here they are, Carl Stahlbaum himself greeting them in his mansion. Once more, a "Drossel, old boy!" and a hearty pat on the back – for her husband; and a "Martl, dear", followed by a small peck on her hand, – for her.

Once more, a Christmas feast – the one Mr. Stahlbaum had always been known around the town for – accompanied by a long talk, a few gentle "just one more bit, for me, Christian…" Martha manages to slip in as it lasts, and just as many slight nods and radiant smiles from Christian, meaning if this makes you happy.

"Watch out, Martha", laughs Mrs. Stahlbaum, nodding at her husband's sizeable girth. "You don't want him to end up like that". To which Carl just waves a hand with a chuckle. "Posh pish, the lad's been a twig for as long as I know him."

It is true: fiery magic flowing through him makes all food melt away like snow in the spring sun. Unlike his cousin, Christian will be a twig in no time, but the way he sits back right now, the velvet waistcoat curving outwards ever so slightly, just makes Martha's heart ache with tenderness. The Stahlbaums are too carried away to notice that – carried away with her spouse telling about Hans, Marie and how well and wisely Marie rules the beautiful kingdom along with her prince now.

Martha already is happy. This family is wonderful; worthy of being saved by her Christian long ago. They had always been treating him as a fellow family member – just like they treat her now: with love, respect and this little bit of jest – and it reflects on his face and entire being, the sheer delight, this time enhanced by her presence.

She leaves him in the chair as Mrs. Stahlbaum introduces her to a few newly-arrived guests, all of whom seem to be simply fascinated by her dress ("a little bit eccentric but so yours, truly yours, Mrs. Drosselmeyer!") – to find him later, standing at the window, aside from the crowd, and sneak up.

Christian winces a bit as her delicate hands rest on his waistcoat – only to cover them with his own bony one and lean into her arms with a sigh of content. Is that just him, or even the starry night behind the window seems warmer simply because she is here, rubbing soothing circles into his velvet-clad middle?

"So you love seeing me rival my cousin?", he smiles.

"Nuh-uh." Martha nuzzles his shoulder. "Just seeing how cosy you are, Uhrmacher…" She chuckles – probably from a little quiet noise of delight beneath her palm – and corrects herself, "...Knurrmacher"*.

*Uhrmacher" is German for "clockmaker". Martha came up with a pun that roughly would mean "Growlmaker". :]