It had been ten years to the day Rosalina and Marcus had promised Keith that they would adopt them. It had been a long ten years, too, full of grief and strife and joy.
Her mother had died, not long after Lance had started his master's program. They had all taken it hard, but... Mamá had been tired and ready to go, anxious to see her husband up in Heaven again. She wasn't hurting anymore, Rosalina knew, both from heartache and from her old body just slowly failing on her. Her aunts and uncles were quickly following in her mamá's footsteps, unfortunately.
Lance, too, hadn't escaped unscathed from heartache. His wife had died in childbirth, leaving him and Ariel (because of course that silly boy was so obsessed with mermaids that he named his child after one) alone in California where he had been working doing research with sharks. After the funeral, he had moved back home so Rosalina could help take care of Ariel (and him, too, though he refused to see it that way). And finally, finally, after four years, Lance had moved on from her death and was bringing home Sebastian to meet the family. Nothing quite like throwing him into the pit to see if he could make it, Lance had joked.
Rosalina had given him a narrowed-eyed look. He had better not name his next kid Flounder or Scuttle or Triton or Eric or any other Little Mermaid names.
Lance swore it was just coincidence.
Keith called bullshit.
And Rosalina's house was full to bursting. It was almost every Christmas Eve, now, with all her kids and their kids and Shiro and Adam and their kid and Hunk and Shay and Pidge thrown in the mix as well. Somehow, without her knowing, she had pulled these stray kids into her own flock, inviting them every year to celebrate with them.
Christmas Day was spent much more quietly, now. There was no way anyone's house was big enough to fit the whole family with aunts and uncles and cousins and second cousins and grandkids and—
But that was okay. They were still near enough that Rosalina could go visit, or they could come to her.
Sylvio and Nadia were finally in high school. Sylvio was about to graduate, excited to join the ranks of adulthood. Rosalina wasn't about to burst his bubble. Nadia, on the other hand, had shown interest in mechanics like Keith and Marcus. More often than not, she spent her weekends in the garage, waist-deep in the guts of a vehicle as Keith patiently showed her what to look for.
Marco, though, had surprised her the most. He had been so adamant that he would never, ever date. "No one wants to date someone who's ace, ma," had been his reason. But then at the last Sunday dinner he had sheepishly asked her if he could bring a man he had been dating for a few months. Liam, apparently, Marco told her privately, didn't care if they never had sex. He was nervous, sure, but hopeful. But most importantly, he was happy.
Rosalina had smiled approvingly and had drawn him into a hug.
Somewhere in the house, pulling her from her thoughts, Rachel was admonishing her six-year-old for being too rough with the younger kids. She was just starting to show, and her and Ruben were excited for their second child. Roman was impatiently awaiting his sibling, constantly asking when they would be born.
Maeve and Benjamin went tumbling past, herded by their mother to the bathroom. Acxa sighed, raising her eyes to the ceiling, and muttered something about potty training. Her and Veronica had just adopted the two siblings, six and two respectively.
A few years ago, Veronica and Acxa had finally gotten their acts together and had gotten married. It had been a small ceremony—just their immediate family and a few friends, but no expense had been spared for the after party. The two had looked positively beautiful in their dresses and hadn't been able to keep their eyes off each other the entire night.
Shiro and Adam's daughter, Sarah, passed by Rosalina on the way to the kitchen, giving her a cheeky grin that was much too mischievous for Rosalina's liking. She was Nadia's age, and the two constantly got into trouble together.
Before she could see what they were planning, Hunk came barreling past, Pidge grinning and hot on his heels.
"Don't you dare touch my chicken, Sarah!"
"But I'm hungry!"
"You can wait like everyone else! Pidge! No! Not the cookies! You heathens. "
Rosalina shook her head at Shay who fondly rolled her eyes at the trio. Hunk and Shay had yet to have kids—something they weren't interested in yet, but Shay had confided in Rosalina that they were thinking of adopting soon. Someone older, someone like Keith.
Speaking of Keith—
Keith had come such a long way from the angry boy she had first fostered ten years ago. Keith was strong in their gender identity, now, dressing in a mixture of femme and masculine or one or the other, even to work. At the garage the employees had a quiet respect for them, especially once Marcus had slowly started backing off after a knee replacement a few years ago. He was still there to guide Keith and to help with the books, but within a few years they were planning on Marcus fully retiring. Together, though, they were painting the front of the building in rainbow colors and putting Safe Space and support stickers in the windows. Any open homophobe had been turned away, but many more people ended up becoming loyal customers. An employee or two had quit due to the change, but—Well, it was no loss to them.
Rosalina looked from her spot near the kitchen for Keith. It had been a while since she had last seen them—
Ah, there they were. Regris had stolen Keith's attention under the mistletoe and had Keith pressed close, putting on quite the show. The rest of her children jeered and hollered, but Rosalina could see Keith grinning into the kiss.
It had been almost ten years since the two had started dating. Eight, maybe, if Rosalina could do her math right. There had been no open talk of marriage, yet, but everyone had been placing bets—pieces of candy, babysitting duties, etc. Half the family was already out—they had thought that the two would have gotten married years ago. Only a handful were still in the running. Some thought it would be a few more months. Others thought they were already engaged and hiding the truth so they could spring it on them as a Christmas present this year.
Only Rosalina and Marcus knew the truth, and they were keeping their lips shut tight with secret grins.
Hunk signaled that the ham was done.
With practiced ease, Rosalina was able to coral everyone into the kitchen to get their plates.
The shelf in her room with all the little glass figurines had grown to accommodate for nearly thirty different animals, and maybe now they had nametags so she could keep them all straight, but she wouldn't have it any other way.
After dinner, they all crammed into the living room. They didn't do a real tree anymore—it took up too much valuable floor space. For Christmas, Rosalina and Marcus took out the coffee and end tables, putting them in a spare room, and brought out as many chairs as they could cram into the space. The younger kids sat in the middle on the floor, but with clear dividing lines so no one could fight that presents had been stolen. Rosalina and Marcus took the loveseat, and Rachel had graciously been given the couch. The others fought over who got the rest of the couch, Shiro and Adam just managing to slide in with wide grins while the others fought. The others huffed defeated sighs when they realized and scattered about.
Since it was too much to ask for everyone to get everyone something, they all did Secret Santa. Her kids all still got her things, and Rosalina and Marcus got each family something, but for the most part they stuck with Secret Santa to keep from spending too much money. The adults had their own pool, and the kids got each other. It worked, for the most part.
Marco and Sylvio handed out the presents this time. In short order, everyone had their piles and started throwing wrapping paper at each other, laughing and teasing and forgetting all their troubles for a moment.
Regris was getting antsy over in his corner with Keith. And Rosalina wasn't the only one to notice. One by one, all the adults and older kids slowly started keeping an eye on the pair. Pidge was slapping Hunk with the back of their hand, nearly vibrating out of their chair as they pulled out their phone to record. Rosalina was pretty sure they were muttering, "It's happening! It's happening!"
Finally, Regris cleared his throat and stood. He sought her out, looking nervous. Keith looked confused below him, sitting in the chair Regris had offered to them earlier.
Rosalina gave him a thumbs up. He could do this.
"Excuse me, everyone," said Regris. He stood tall, arms clasped behind his back. "I have one more Christmas present I need to give out."
Lance squealed, "It's happening! Holy crow."
Keith still looked confused. They opened their mouth to question Regris, or Lance, or someone, but Regris swiftly turned back to them with a nervous smile.
"We've been dating for a while," Regris started. He fumbled with something in his pocket. "Too long, some might say, without me putting a ring on your finger."
Keith's eyes widened. "Regris—what—"
Regris smoothly lowered himself until he was kneeling in front of Keith. Someone started shrieking. Several voices hushed Lance. Regris pulled out the black box and opened it to show off the ring to Keith. Rosalina couldn't see it from where she was sitting, but she knew what it looked like from Regris asking the week before if he had their permission to marry them. He'd proudly shown off the ring to her and Marcus, seeking their approval.
It was a rose gold metal ring, but rough and branch-like that didn't close all the way. Instead, the two ends overlapped but went in separate directions, twisting like vines or roots. Small jewels branched off like leaves, pink tourmaline for Keith's October birthday, and green peridot for Regris' August birthday.
And no, Rosalina hadn't teared up when Regris had showed her the ring, thank you very much.
Shut up, Marcus.
"I'll keep it short," Regris said, smiling shakily at Keith. "You know I love you, more than anything. You know I love your family and how they made me one of theirs since I have none left. And I know how important it is to you that you've set your roots down with them and..." Regris pulled the ring out of the box, hand only shaking slightly. "And I was hoping you would set your roots with me, too. Or—Or that you would let me set mine down with yours."
There was a hushed moment where Keith just stared at the ring. They looked at Regris, eyes wide, searching for—something. But then Keith shoved their hand towards the ring and said, "Of course, Regris. What took you so long to ask?"
Regris spluttered in indignation, but put the ring on their finger. Amidst the cheers, Keith pulled Regris forward for a kiss, cupping his cheeks and letting the kiss linger.
Somewhere, someone asked who won the bet. Arguments started anew, and Rosalina settled back into Marcus' arms with a smile.
Rosalina thought that maybe, just maybe, she didn't do a half bad job at raising these kids.