Chapter Nineteen: A Very Merry Christmas

Notes: ^_^ Well here we are, finally finishing up our Christmas fanfic, and at least it's done before New Year's. XD

"True, true. ^^ As always, our next story will start tomorrow, and it's going to be called "The Evil Strike."

The villain's going to be a familiar enemy and there were many, many clues as to who that's going to be. XD

"Well, here we go!"

* * * * * * * * * * *

Chapter Nineteen: A Very Merry Christmas

The next morning, the sun shone brightly on Madam Christina's mansion. It was late in the morning, around 11:00, but everyone was just getting up and getting downstairs for breakfast. They'd decided to sleep in, all tired from their experiences the day before.

Tea passed the plate of toast to Joey, who still looked half-asleep, although the scent of fresh breakfast food was making him a bit more alert. Bakura and Mokuba were sitting on the other side of the table next to Yugi, and Amber and Duke were next to Tea. Mr. Taylor and Tristan walked downstairs, both dressed already.

"Sorry to have slept in so late," Mr. Taylor apologized, sitting down at the end of the table, across from Madam Christina, who still looked happy that everything had gone back to normal.

"No problem at all," Madam Christina replied as Tristan sat down. "It looks as though not everyone has woken up yet anyway."

Joey nodded, digging into the toast and eggs.

"Yeah, Taerro and Serenity aren't up yet," he muttered through a mouthful of food.

Amber nodded, looking around.

"And neither is Kaiba," she observed. "Strange, he's always up by now."

Mokuba shrugged as he poured the orange juice into a tall glass.

"I think yesterday wore him out," he replied, taking a sip of his drink.

Joey was about to make a comment, but his mouth was too full, so he decided against it. Instead, Bakura nodded.

"I admit, it was quite exciting," he replied in agreement. "Although, I don't think I particularly like that kind of excitement."

Yugi laughed, looking around for some sign of his partner, but Yami was not to be seen. Deciding he was probably off exploring somewhere, he went back to his breakfast.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Meanwhile, Yami, in fact, was up on the roof of the mansion, talking to Priest Seto, both of whom were enjoying the scenery without having to "enjoy" the cold as well.

"So he tapped into the mind controlling ability of the rod?" Yami asked, raising an eyebrow.

Priest Seto nodded.

"That's what he said," he replied. "Seems he used it on two men that were attacking his brother and that girl."

"Tea," Yami replied. "Yes...although..."

Priest Seto raised an eyebrow and tilted his head.

"Although...?" he asked, quizzically.

"I don't know why I find it strange, seeing as how Yugi has used the Mind Crush ability of the puzzle before, but something about the rod just doesn't seem right," Yami murmured.

Priest Seto sighed.

"What about it?" he inquired.

"You know I wasn't the one who gave the rod to Kaiba," Yami replied, looking up at the priest, who nodded. "Yugi seemed to think it best, and I trusted his judgment. However, perhaps it just..."

"Frightens you?" Priest Seto asked, knowing that was probably where Yami was headed.

Yami gritted his teeth.

"I'd appreciate it if you didn't put it that way," he replied icily. "No, it doesn't "frighten" me, it just makes me wonder."

Priest Seto stared at the Pharaoh, knowing exactly what he meant, and feeling a stab of hurt. He thought the Pharaoh had learned to trust him...but now he still didn't trust his reincarnate? But then again, with no memory and only half-told stories to lean on, what was he supposed to believe?

"Wonder if he'd use it for another purpose," Priest Seto finished, staring out at the horizon. "Isn't that right, Pharaoh?"

Yami sighed.

"Somewhat," he replied honestly. "Power can sometimes go to ones head, and although I want to trust him..."

"You can, Pharaoh," Priest Seto replied, still staring out at the snow-covered trees in the distance. "Besides. Since when does Seto Kaiba use magic unless absolutely necessary?"

Yami smirked.

"You might have a point," he admitted, although still not completely convinced. "At least...the evil has been banished for now, and Madam Christina should be safe."

Priest Seto nodded.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Meanwhile, in a dark location, the black-haired woman, Zurui, sat in the darkness, her eyes narrowed in amusement.

"So...the Millennium Item holders and their associates proved stronger than those thugs," she murmured. "Excellent. They will prove to be worthy opponents, and their items shall prove to be excellent sources of power...when the time comes."

With that, she laughed.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Meanwhile, down at the breakfast table, most everyone had finished eating, and where now talking amongst each other. Mokuba joined in conversation with Duke and Amber as he waited for his brother to come downstairs. Taerro, also, was still asleep, but Serenity had come downstairs in her robe and slippers, feeling awkward around everyone else already dressed.

While she ran back upstairs to get changed, Mokuba sighed.

"When is niisama going to get up?" he muttered, glancing over at the stairs. "He's usually up by this time, no matter what."

Amber raised an eyebrow.

"Maybe he's sick," she suggested. "I mean, he didn't wear a coat all yesterday and you guys were wandering around in the snow a lot."

Mokuba pushed his chair back and stood up.

"Maybe I ought to go check on him..." he murmured, heading toward the stairs.

Amber winked at Duke and hurried after the boy.

"I'll come with you, if you want," she offered, Mokuba looking gratefully up at her. "I could always tell right away when Pearl caught cold or something like that."

"Okay," Mokuba replied, the two walking upstairs and toward the guest room that Mokuba was sharing with his brother.

Mokuba opened the door and poked his head in.

"Niisama?" he asked, but Seto was still sound asleep.

Mokuba bit his lip, looking up at Amber as the two walked quietly into the room.

"You think he's sick?" Mokuba asked, tilting his head to the right.

Amber shrugged, realizing it was hard to tell when someone was asleep. Pearl had always been running around outside.

"I'm not sure," she murmured, gently pressing her hand against his forehead, her eyebrows going up. "Hm..."

Seto opened one eye, wondering why Mokuba and Amber were standing around him. Amber, embarrassed, pulled her hand back, smiling awkwardly.

"Uh...good morning!" she said cheerfully, looking awkwardly over at Mokuba.

Seto sat up, raising an eyebrow at his younger brother and Amber.

"Good morning..." he replied slowly. "What are you two doing?" he asked curiously.

Amber blushed, feeling stupid, but Mokuba cut in.

"Well, when you didn't get up with everyone else this morning, I thought you were sick, so we came to check on you," Mokuba explained, scratching his cheek and looking down at the blue carpeted floor.

"You thought I was sick?" Seto asked, in disbelief.

"Yeah, seems you are," Amber replied, giggling slightly. "So! Sorry for bothering you! You can go back to bed now."

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

A few days later, the week at Madam Christina's mansion was up, and the gang was all packed and ready to go. Both Seto and Taerro had ended up with a mild cold, but both had recovered quickly and everyone was ready to go home for Christmas, despite the fact that staying at Madam Christina's, with the exception of the events with the crime group.

Seto, Joey, and Yugi ended up being the victors of the mini-matches, and all of them received another small token. Duke and Tristan, being too tired to finish their match, declared a draw. Madam Christina had given Taerro, Mokuba, and Tea new pieces to make up for their pendants. Mr. Taylor had volunteered to take the shattered pieces of the pendants home, and was going to keep them safe as well as NOT put them together again.

Now, the gang were bidding their last farewells to Madam Christina, who was smiling broadly as she waved at them.

"Thank you so much for coming, and again, for helping me with those antique thieves," she called, waving as they got into their various cars.

"Not a problem at all!" Joey called boldly, waving as Mr. Taylor got into the car and started the engine.

The others nodded in agreement, waving as they pulled out.

"Thanks for inviting us!" Yugi called as he got in the car as well.

"Yes, we had a great time!" Tea added, waving.

Madam Christina smiled happily.

"Anytime," she called. "Anytime. Drive safely now, and have a Merry Christmas!"

"You too!" Bakura called as the cars drove away, Madam Christina still smiling as she walked into the house with Bob and closed the door behind her.

It was nice to know such wonderful people, she thought to herself warmly. Even if they are only sixteen years old, she added with a chuckle.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

The next day, Yugi waited happily in the dark auditorium of the Domino High School theater, anxiously awaiting the Christmas performance by Kiki, Tea, and the rest of the Irish dancers. Beside him were Joey, Serenity, Tristan, Bakura, and Taerro.

"It's a pity Amber and Duke had to miss out on such a special occasion," Taerro sighed, watching the dancers on stage perform The Nutcracker.

Yugi nodded in agreement, watching Yami out of the corner of his eye. The ancient spirit was watching the performance from high above them, preferring a birds-eye view of the show.

"Yeah, but they both had to catch a flight this morning to America," Yugi replied, watching the dancers as well. "Amber invited Duke to spend the holiday's with her family."

Joey rolled his eyes.

"How romantic," he muttered sarcastically. "I bet Pearl will be all over him."

Serenity giggled.

"Oniichan," she scolded light-heartedly, smiling.

"Shh," Bakura whispered with a grin, enjoying the use of both his arms once again.

He'd gotten his cast taken off that morning, just in time for the holidays. He was more than happy to be able-bodied again.

Suddenly, the dancers bowed and walked offstage, the Irish dancers, along with Tea, who was dressed in a green outfit to match them, replacing them. Yugi clapped especially loud as they began their Christmas dance.

"What a great way to spend Christmas Eve," Yugi thought to himself, watching Kiki and Tea perform with a smile. "Surrounded by my friends."

Yami looked down at Yugi, smiling at him. Yugi smiled back.

"Indeed," Yami agreed with a smile, overhearing Yugi's thoughts as the Christmas music played on.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Seto and Mokuba were at home, meanwhile, decorating their Christmas tree. Mokuba had picked out an especially large on, and the two were admiring their old ornaments, pulling them out of the packing box and unwrapping them from their protectors.

"So you hang the decorations on the tree?" Priest Seto inquired, watching with interest.

Mokuba nodded, putting up a paper ornament he'd made back when he had been in kindergarten.

"Yeah," he replied with a smile. "It's a tradition."

Seto nodded.

"So what is Christmas all about?" Priest Seto asked curiously, as Seto hung up a golden ornament with a candle painted on it.

Seto sighed, trying to think of a way to explain the holiday to someone like the priest. A moment later, he replied.

"Well," he started, not interested in giving a long lecture. "It's a religious holiday, but it could be said that one aspect of it is the spirit of giving."

Mokuba nodded, smiling.

Priest Seto smiled.

"I see," he replied, feeling happy as Seto plugged in the Christmas tree lights and the whole thing was lit with bright colors, the ornaments sparkling in the light. "That's a good thing."

Seto nodded, sitting down on the couch, Mokuba sitting down next to his brother, laying his head on his brother's chest and hugging him.

"Yeah," Mokuba agreed, closing his eyes happily. "I'm glad we're all together. Being around the people you love is another thing that makes the holidays so special."

Seto nodded.

"Yes, it is," he agreed with a small smile, putting his arm around his brother's shoulder.

Priest Seto smiled as well, watching as the Christmas tree lights twinkled and the snow outside fell quietly to the ground, making the evening perfect for a Christmas Eve.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Meanwhile, Amber opened the door to the taxi and stepped out, Duke behind her, both holding their suitcases full of luggage. Duke blinked, looking at Amber's house with a smile.

"Looks cool," Duke commented as the two walked up the icy steps and to the door, Amber opening it and walking in, Duke behind her.

"Hello? We're here!" Amber called, hearing noises of chattering relatives in the dining room.

There was a clink of dishes and a sound of footsteps running before Amber's white-haired cousin came running down the hallway, her face lit up eagerly.

"Amber! Duke!" Pearl cried happily, running over to them. "You got here just in time for dinner!"

Amber smiled.

"Cool," she replied as her mother and father walked down the hall as well, smiling.

"Amber!" Her mother cried, hugging her daughter tightly. "You really need to come home more often. We haven't seen you since the summer!"

Amber blushed as her mom let go, Duke grinning behind her.

"Well, I've been busy," she replied, her cheeks still pink as she tugged Duke forward. "This is Duke Devlin. He's..."

"...Your boyfriend!" Pearl finished with a giggle, Amber shooting her a silencing glare.

"Pearl!" Amber exclaimed, her father ushering Pearl back into the other room.

"Hi," Duke replied in a friendly voice, smiling.

"Hello," Amber's mother replied, smiling kindly. "'ve been boarding with him?"

"Yep!" Amber replied with a grin. "He's a really nice guy. So are all his employees."

Duke blushed, scratching his cheek.

"Well, go on in and sit down, Duke," Amber's mother suggested, stepping aside. "We'll be right there."

Amber flashed a smile at Duke as he walked into the dinning room, Pearl pulling him to an open spot beside her. Amber giggled, before looking up at her mom, who looked rather shocked.

"Well? What do you think of him?" Amber asked, grinning.

Her mother blinked.

"Well...he's certainly...different," she replied, forcing a smile. "And he's nice?"

Amber laughed, looping her arm through her mom's as they started toward the dining room themselves.

"Yes, he's very nice. He's great," Amber laughed with a smile. "After a while you don't even mind the dice earring," she added, knowing her mom hated when boys wore earrings.

Her mother smiled.

"Well, I'm glad for you," she replied.

Amber smiled as she sat down at the table, across from Duke, winking at him. He looked slightly out of place with all the rest of her family around, but he smiled back.

"This is going to be the best Christmas ever," Amber thought to herself, as everyone started on the dinner. "I'm sure of it."

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"And our next story will be up tomorrow, so check back for it soon! Thanks for reading, and have a Happy New Year!" *blows horn*