IMPORTANT NOTE: THIS FIC IS BY AerinM ON ! All but one of these fics are written by other people so be sure to read the notes to see who they are by! They are posted here in this collection with permission. This is set for the Christmas after the events of Fablehaven book 5, KttDP. Imagine that Dragonwatch doesn't exist for this particular oneshot.
Christmas at Fablehaven was always memorable, to say the least. This particular year, Hank and Gloria had decided to host a party at the old mansion, which they had decked out in red, gold and green. Cheerful music played in the background, and many of the Larsen's and Sorenson's friends (fellow Knights of the Dawn) had turned up for the event. It was still a couple of weeks before the actual holiday, however they'd intentionally planned it that way so that everyone could choose to be with their families or other friends on Christmas itself. Even though the dress code was semi-formal, the atmosphere of the party was light and relaxed. Gloria was pretty proud of the fact that they'd been able to pull this off - it had taken a lot of effort, and it had all worked out quite nicely. She glanced around the room to observe how their guests were occupying themselves, taking particular note of her family and those who were especially close friends of Fablehaven.
Tanu sat at one table with Trask, Hank, and Stan, the four of them playing some card game which Gloria was positive would end with someone losing money. Elise had engaged Ruth in conversation after she had grown bored of watching the men play their game. Kendra, Seth, and Bracken hovered near the hot chocolate bar which had been set up early on in the night; they were talking and laughing with each other over their individual cups of cocoa. Scott had pulled Marla away from straightening up some of the empty place settings on a nearby table and swept her up into a dance in the middle of the room despite her half-hearted protests; she was obviously pleased by her husband's actions, judging by the tremendous smile which rested on her face. Mara and Vanessa were talking to each other in low tones, which kind of surprised Gloria. She hadn't really thought they were friends, although she also didn't know either of those women tremendously well. Warren wandered the room, wanting to talk to everyone, while Dale sat at a table by himself looking cheerful but also somewhat tired.
Ah, Dale. What were they going to do with that boy?
"Hey. Dale." Warren approached his brother from behind, tapping him on the shoulder.
"No," Dale replied, turning around anyway to see what Warren wanted.
"You don't even know what I'm going to say."
"You're right, but I know that tone of voice and it's telling me that you're up to something I don't want to be involved in."
"Oh, come on. It's not like I'm going to wrestle you to the ground or anything."
"We both know I would win that match."
"We don't know that for sure, but that's not the point." Warren cleared his throat, then stepped aside and said, "Haaaaaaave you met Elise?"
He gestured toward the woman who had been standing behind and to the left of Warren, chatting animatedly with Ruth. She looked at Warren when she heard her name, and seemed surprised that he was gesturing toward her with his arms splayed out Vanna White-style. Dale rolled his eyes at Warren's actions.
"Sorry, Ruth," Elise apologized. "I'd better go figure out what this nitwit is up to." She then sauntered over to Warren and asked, "What on earth are you doing?"
"Elise, this is my brother, Dale," Warren introduced the two of them. "He's handsome, right? Got the whole buff farm boy thing going on, right? He's also a really hard worker who enjoys quiet activities in the evenings."
"Stop," Dale said at the same time that Elise flatly asked, "Again, what are you doing?"
"Dale is really dependable. Like… ridiculously dependable. I don't think he's ever flaked on anyone in his life, ever. A real man of his word."
"Warren," Dale said in a warning tone.
"And you would think he'd be too busy for it, but this guy loves to read! You should see his collection of books. He's an intellectual!"
Elise put a hand up to silence her friend. "That's enough, Warren. I'll take it from here." She stuck her hand toward Dale, and he reciprocated her proffered handshake. "Nice to meet you, Dale. I'm Elise."
"Hello, Elise. I must apologize for my idiot brother. He's been on a kick lately to try and set me up with someone."
"Hey, what is family for?" Warren asked, clapping Dale on the back. "Besides, I need to find you a girlfriend so that you'll stop flirting with mine."
At that comment, Dale winked at Vanessa who was conversing nearby with Mara, both women also clearly observing what was going on with the Burgess brothers. Vanessa winked back at him and blew him a kiss in return.
"See? That. That is inappropriate conduct. She's taken," Warren stated a little defensively. "Talk to Elise. Bye!" And with a wave, Warren stalked over toward Vanessa and enveloped her in a side hug, pushing her and Mara away from Dale and Elise.
Dale rolled his eyes again. "Well, can I buy you a drink?" he asked his new companion.
Elise chuckled. "Sure," she said, mirth in her eyes. "How long do you think it'll take for him to remember that we already know each other?"
"Your guess is as good as mine," Dale answered, laughing lightly himself. He offered his arm to Elise, who accepted and let him lead her to another one of the tables in the room where there were several bottles and decanters of various beverages.
"Why did you do that to him?" Vanessa asked Warren as he pulled her away from Dale and Elise. Mara kept up with them, partially because Vanessa had grabbed hold of her wrist and wouldn't let go.
"He needs a girlfriend," Warren answered.
"He told you to stop interfering," Vanessa insisted. "Now let me go. I was having a nice conversation with Mara before you interrupted us." She made to pull out of Warren's grasp, but he kept his hands on her waist and continued directing her further away from his brother.
"Sorry," Warren said. "We need to give them their privacy."
Vanessa raised an eyebrow at him and planted her feet firmly to the ground in order to keep him from dragging her around. "We're at a family Christmas party. There are children here. What, exactly, do you think is going to happen?"
"Can you please let go of my wrist?" Mara suddenly asked. Vanessa quickly apologized and released her grip on the other woman's arm.
"I don't know, maybe they'll get friendlier with each other if we leave them alone," Warren said, shrugging, his attention focused on what Dale and Elise were up to.
Mara looked at him like he was a strange puzzle she couldn't quite piece together, while Vanessa rolled her eyes. "Again, this is a family Christmas party. The most quote-unquote 'friendly' activity here is probably the fact that there's mistletoe hanging around the place." Vanessa gestured to the room at large.
Warren followed her hand as she waved it around, then said, "Oh, look, Bracken's standing underneath some mistletoe. I wonder if he even realizes it."
"You saw him first," Mara said, shrugging her shoulders, her facial expression betraying absolutely none of her thoughts. Vanessa's earlier annoyance disappeared as she started laughing while Warren's eyes grew to the size of golf balls.
"No no no no no no no," Warren said, letting go of Vanessa and shaking his hands in front of him. "Nuh-uh."
"Tradition is tradition, Warren," Vanessa laughed. "You can't leave him all alone under the mistletoe. It's bad luck."
"I can and I absolutely will," he insisted. "Just… no. Nope. No."
"Oh, there's Kendra. Looks like she's spotted him," Mara said, folding her arms while she observed from a distance.
"Do you think she's seen the mistletoe yet?" Vanessa asked.
"Doesn't look like it," Mara replied.
"Hmm. I wonder if they've kissed much in the past. Well, no time like the present. Apparently, family Christmas parties are where people go to get friendly with each other," Vanessa teased, laughing at the end while she poked her boyfriend in the chest.
"Okay, okay, haha, very funny," Warren said. He couldn't stop watching as Kendra walked up to Bracken and they started talking like there was nothing unusual about their surroundings.
"They're oblivious to the fact that there is mistletoe hanging right over them," Mara mused.
"Looks like it. I wonder how long it'll take for them to catch on?" Vanessa pondered out loud.
Warren shook his head as he observed Kendra and Bracken for another minute or so, then ran off toward the couple in question while Vanessa laughed again as she watched him run away.
"I thought he said he wasn't going to initiate the kissing?" Mara asked.
"Kendra's practically his little sister in his eyes. He probably doesn't want to think about her kissing anyone. Just watch."
Kendra had excused herself to use the restroom and, when she came back, she found that her brother and Bracken had both seemingly disappeared. She glanced around the room to look for either one of them (perhaps more so the handsome unicorn boy rather than her brother) and eventually spotted Bracken leaning against one of the walls in the room. He appeared to be contentedly people watching. She turned her gaze to the room at large again to try and find out where Seth had gone but didn't spot him. Eventually, she gave up and decided to go spend some more time with Bracken.
"Hey there," she said as she approached him. She was rewarded with a warm smile. "What's got you so entertained?"
"Your family and friends," Bracken answered, shrugging his shoulders. "An event like this allows people to relax, which also allows some interesting interactions to happen. For example." He laid one hand on Kendra's shoulder and pointed with his other hand toward the left side of the room, leaning toward her while he spoke. "Trask is decimating the rest of everyone else at poker."
"Well he does know how to keep a straight face," Kendra said.
"That is very true. The other men at the table are still enjoying themselves, however, your grandmothers are starting to get annoyed." Bracken chuckled, then pointed toward where her grandmothers were standing together and frowning at the quartet of men who were having a raucously good time. "How long before you think they'll break up the card game?"
"Oh, I'd give them maybe another couple of minutes or so."
"We'll see if you're right, although I agree with you," Bracken said. He then shifted his stance slightly and gestured toward the back of the room. "Dale and Elise are enjoying themselves."
Kendra smiled. "Hmmm. Do you think something might be happening there?" she asked.
"Nothing more than friendship in my opinion," Bracken began, "although Warren is clearly hoping that he made a good match."
Kendra's eyes drifted toward her cousin, who she was surprised to find staring right at her. "Um..." she began. "Why is Warren staring at us?"
Bracken furrowed his eyebrows. "Maybe he's people watching, too?"
"No, he's clearly staring directly at us specifically." Kendra looked down at her outfit, wondering if she'd spilled something on herself earlier. She startled a little when Bracken removed his hand from her shoulder and softly laughed, then followed his line of sight and spotted the issue.
A blush formed on Kendra's face as she made eye contact with Bracken, just in time for Warren to run up to them at top speed and plant a kiss on each of their cheeks before he madly dashed away again.
Kendra placed a hand over her cheek where she'd just been kissed and saw Bracken do the same, both of them staring after Warren while she asked, "What just happened?"
Bracken leaned in and planted a kiss on her other cheek, then pulled away with a laugh. "Who knows? He's a bit of an odd egg sometimes."
Kendra stood on her tiptoes and kissed him on the cheek as well, a brilliant flush covering her face. She was a little happy to see that Bracken was blushing, too. He pulled her in for a hug, then held her hand and asked, "Would you care to dance?" When Kendra nodded her assent, Bracken tucked her hand into the crook of his arm and led her to the middle of the room, where Scott and Marla and a few other couples were also dancing.
"That's enough of that!" Ruth shouted, stalking over to the card players and snatching all of the cards she could reach. Gloria was hot on her heels and quickly began doing the same thing.
"It's a party!" Stan protested. "Let us have our fun!"
"Heaven knows I worked hard enough decorating this place," Hank added. "God forbid I take a moment to sit down and enjoy myself."
Trask laughed heartily. "Another time," he said, gathering the bills of money in front of him into a neater stack.
"No. This is a Christmas party," Gloria emphasized. "You're supposed to be eating or dancing or visiting with family and friends. Not squandering your retirement funds."
"Not much point in having the money if you live on a self-sustaining farm," Hank said. "Unless you're planning to move and just haven't told me?"
Ruth whacked him upside the head for that remark. "You aren't going anywhere," she said when Hank let out a confused exclamation. He'd expected the blow to come from his wife, not Stan's.
"She's got a mean right hook," Stan said, chuckling at his friend's discomfort. "I'd be careful about what I say around her if I were you."
"Stan, I have never punched you in a situation when we weren't sparring. Don't spread false rumors about me."
"Whoa, wait! You guys used to spar!?"
The adults at the table all looked around for Seth, who they knew was the one who said that last part. They'd recognize his voice anywhere. The boy in question popped out from underneath the table.
"Did you use weapons, or was it hand-to-hand practice? Why were you sparring in the first place? Did you go on awesome adventures?" he asked, more questions clearly on the tip of his tongue.
"How long have you been hiding under there?" Tanu asked.
"A while," Seth said, grinning mischievously.
Stan and Hank exchanged glances at each other. There may or may not have been a few inappropriate jokes tossed around while they were "squandering their retirement funds" as Gloria had so eloquently stated.
"Long enough to hear some things which I will probably never forget," Seth continued his train of thought. "Some of those jokes were great. I'll have to use those in the future!"
Tanu and Trask busted out into peals of full-blown laughter while Stan smacked himself in the face and Hank bit his lip to keep from joining in the laughter himself.
Ruth glared disapprovingly at the men in front of her, then rolled her eyes. "Come along, Seth," she said, motioning for the boy to come out from beneath the table and follow her. "I'll tell you all about your grandfather's irresponsible shenanigans from his youth. Maybe even some from his late adulthood."
"Ruth!" Stan called after her as she walked away with all of the playing cards in her grip. She didn't stop moving, so he stood up and speed-walked toward her. "Don't tell him everything!"
Hank turned toward Gloria. "Any chance we'll be getting those cards back?" he asked.
"None," she answered. "I think you've made Trask wealthy enough for one day."
"Oh well. It was worth a shot," he said, standing up from his chair. He stiffly bowed toward Tanu and Trask and added, "It was a pleasure to play with you, gentlemen. Perhaps we should reconvene in the future."
"You're on," Tanu said while Trask smiled and added, "Any time you feel like your wallet is getting too heavy, feel free to contact me."
Hank lifted a hand to his mouth and whispered conspiratorially to them, "Maybe sometime when the missus is away."
Gloria whacked him on the shoulder and Hank whined, "Why am I getting picked on?"
"You have guests to greet," Gloria said, pulling him away from the table.
Tanu and Trask looked at each other, then smiled and started laughing again. "Christmas parties, man. Am I right?" Tanu asked.
"Family, friends, sugar, good food, booze... yep. You're right. Endless entertainment," Trask agreed. Trask raised his whiskey to Tanu's eggnog and the men clinked their glasses together in a toast.
The evening wound down with everyone gathered around the piano which Scott had pushed out into the main hall. He and Kendra took turns sitting on the piano bench playing Christmas carols and hymns while everyone else sang along, continued to chat with each other, or otherwise partnered off and swayed to the music on the dance floor.
"So... How was your evening?" Warren approached Dale, placing a hand on his shoulder.
"Very nice," Dale answered, smiling.
"I see a grin. Did something happen...?"
"But you're smiling. Do you at least have a date?"
Warren pouted. "What do you mean, 'no'?"
Dale sighed and clapped his brother on the back. "Elise was wonderful company. I think we're going to be good friends," he said. "I'd call that a success. It was a good night. I didn't have to walk away with a date in order to enjoy the evening."
"But why is there no date? You guys were together all night! Did you just not ask her?"
"Nope," Dale stated.
"Again with the 'nope.' Why not?" Warren asked.
Dale grinned. "Here, I'll show you," he said, walking toward Elise, who was mingling with Bracken and Seth. Warren watched as he caught her attention, and continued to watch as Dale brought Elise over to where Vanessa and Mara were sitting together (which wasn't far from where Warren was standing). He heard every word as Dale approached the women and said, "Hey, Mara."
She quirked an eyebrow up at him and, obviously not expecting Dale to approach her, asked, "Hello?"
Dale cleared his throat and then, mimicking Warren's words and actions from earlier, motioned toward his companion Vanna White-style and said, "Haaaaaave you met Elise?"
Elise blushed and Mara looked at Dale in slight confusion until a small smile crossed her face. With that, Dale bowed toward the trio of women and returned to Warren's side.
A heavy silence hung between the two brothers until Dale turned toward Warren and stated, "That's why."
"Yeah, okay, I get it," Warren said, trying to talk over his brother.
"Don't be upset. I had a great time tonight. Thank you for making me do something aside from staring at the wall."
"You wouldn't have stayed there for too much longer. Not with the way Gloria was staring at you," Warren began. "She looked like she was going to put you to work."
"Warren, if there's one thing you should know about me by now, it's that I'm not afraid of work."
"Yeah, but you need to loosen up." Warren made eye contact with his brother. "You know that I just want you to be happy, right?"
"Yeah," Dale said. "I appreciate the sentiment. But I'm not worried about my apparent lack of a significant other. I'm already happy, Warren. I promise. I'll be okay, whether or not there's someone romantically special in my life." He pulled his brother into a hug. "Merry Christmas, Warren," he said. "Now please... butt out of my love life."
Warren laughed. "Merry Christmas."
A/N: AGAIN! This amazing chapter was by AerinM! She has a lot of other great fics so be sure to give her lots of love here and on her account! On to the next one shot you go!