Chapter 9 – Epilogue: Christmas Day
Forty pounds might not seem like a good deal of weight. At least, it doesn't until said forty pounds leaps full-force onto your chest while you're asleep.
"Hoof! Ouch! Emma!"
"Wake up, Mr. Skywalker! Wake up! It's Christmas morning!" She straddled his chest and peered into his eyes, exacerbating the situation by bouncing up and down excitedly.
"Emma, get off me," Anakin groaned.
"Wake up! It's Christmas! And Santa came last night!"
"While Santa was coming last night, I was all over town hunting for bombs and being clobbered by a bloodthirsty crime lord. Wake me up tomorrow morning." He rolled over and pulled the covers over his head.
But by now there were no less than three bodies bouncing on the hide-a-bed, clamoring for him to get up.
"Come on, Mom won't let us open presents until all the adults are up!" pleaded Christopher. "And you're the only adult still in bed."
With great reluctance he dragged himself out of bed. "Fine, but I'm taking a nap this afternoon, and you're not stopping me."
"Deal struck," Trapper said with a grin.
Gifts had been left for the children by the fireplace, mostly small toys and some candy. Each adult had received a box of chocolates, and these everyone indulged in happily.
"Anyone wanna trade a caramel for something with nuts?" asked Felix. "I hate caramels."
"Give 'em to the kids, they'll like them," Luke replied.
"No way," Lydia told him. "They'll be sugared up enough without Felix's help."
Gideon was obviously enjoying himself, but Anakin thought he looked a bit confused as well. He wondered just what had happened to the boy during his wanderings last night.
"Can we open presents now?" pleaded London.
"Yeah, can we?" gushed Cody.
"As long as you open mine first," Brigham told him, handing him a bulky package.
Cody tore off the paper and screamed in joy. "Essential Guides to Characters, Vehicles, Alien Species, Droids, Weapons, and Planets!" he exclaimed, flinging his arms around his friend. "Thank you, thank you, thankyouthankyouthankyou…"
"Leggo, Cody," Brigham grunted.
Luke laughed. "I'm glad you two have patched things up."
Soon the family was caught up in passing out and unwrapping gifts. Anakin was pleased to see Gideon immediately become absorbed in the book he'd given the boy, and Opal looked thrilled with her own gift.
"This one's from Brigham," Alzina told Anakin, passing him a square package.
He laughed as he opened the package. "'Knights of the Old Republic,' Brigham?"
"Hey, I thought you'd enjoy it," Brigham replied. "Being a Jedi and all."
"Hey, look what Liberty got me!" Lexus exclaimed, holding up a beautifully embroidered blouse with a phoenix stitched in vivid red and gold across the front.
"It's beautiful," Mrs. Pratt replied. "Did you do that yourself, Liberty?"
She smiled modestly. "I did it during the night, in the dark. I'm afraid it looks better in the dark."
"I'm wearing it to class when school starts again," Lexus declared, pulling the shirt on over her pajamas.
"I got one from her too," Brigham said, holding up a handsome midnight-blue dress shirt with the Salt Lake Temple embroidered in silver. "Very nice, Lib."
"Hey, Anakin got something from her too!" Christopher tossed him the package. "Open it!"
Anakin caught the gift and carefully opened it. "My goodness, Liberty!" he exclaimed, unfolding the black cloak. "If you continue this, you'll go blind!"
"I've been working on yours for some time, actually," she said. "When I drew your name, I knew I had an excuse to give it to you."
He unfolded the cape, which had been meticulously designed with planets, moons, stars, and comets in a gorgeous pattern. "I'm saving this for special occasions," he told her.
"I want him to open mine next!" Emma cried. "Give him mine next!"
"What a refreshing change to hear them begging to let other people open presents first," Clinton noted as the package was passed to Anakin.
"Will it jump out and bite him?" asked Austin jokingly.
Emma practically shook with anticipation as Anakin tore away the paper. Inside, contained in a plastic box, was a Senator Amidala doll.
"Don't you like it?" Emma gushed.
"Sure he likes it," Felix sniggered before Brigham punched his arm to silence him.
"I know you loved her," Emma went on. "I saw it in the movie. And I thought if you could see the doll and think of her, you wouldn't miss her so much."
He blinked rapidly, but even that couldn't stop the tears from escaping. "Thank you very much, Emma," he replied in a voice thick with emotion.
She climbed up in his lap and embraced him around the neck.
"All right, who's the smart alek?" Luke demanded, holding up the Force FX lightsaber someone had given him.
"That would be me," Clinton grinned. "Seeing as Skywalkers are prone to losing their lightsabers, I thought you could use a spare."
"Thanks," Luke replied sarcastically.
Liberty opened a small box that Austin had given her. "Aw gee, how romantic," she said in a very unenthusiastic voice. "He got me a pair of socks."
"Honey, you're always complaining that your feet are cold," Austin protested.
"Maybe he's pointing out that your love life is suffering because of your cold feet in bed – ow!" Cody yelped as Liberty smacked him with the socks. "Geez, that hurt! What's in those things, rocks?"
"Don't ask me," Liberty replied, shaking a sock by its toe. "Ask Casanova over here…"
A tiny black box fell out in her hand. She gasped.
"I know this is long overdue," Austin told her, taking the box from her. "But I thought it would make an appropriate Christmas present." Removing the ring from the box, he slid it onto her finger. "Liberty King, will you marry me?"
The room broke out into applause as she flung her arms around him.
"All I can say is it's about time," Brigham told Anakin over the din.
"Amen," Anakin replied.
The Greyhound bus trundled out of Salt Lake, largely unnoticed. Anakin and the members of the Elite were going back to Star City, back to their mundane (if not entirely normal) lives.
"Well, this was an exciting Christmas, wasn't it?" asked Cody, turning in his seat to talk to Anakin.
Anakin nodded. "We met Brigham's family, Brigham almost broke your nose, Ruth brought home a crime lord who almost destroyed half of Salt Lake City, I demolished a Dairy Queen restaurant, the Elite gained a new member in the form of Brigham's cousin, and Austin finally proposed to Liberty… yes, it was pretty eventful."
Cody looked back on the city. "Pretty place. Think you'll go back?"
"I don't know."
"You're still thinking about Xizor, aren't you?" Cody asked. "Trust me, the guy's getting shipped to Corusant. Fat chance he'll escape."
Anakin shifted to get comfortable in his seat, trying not to disturb Opal, who'd sat beside him to take dictation on his memoir and was now fast asleep. "I'm not worried about his escape."
"Okay, did he say something to you?"
"Trust me, it's not important, Cody. Go to sleep."
"Who needs sleep? I gotta finish these books Brigham gave me."
Anakin chuckled and stared back out the window, lost in thought. Luke had left shortly before they did, and his plane was by now halfway to the New York spaceport. He wondered when he would next see his son again. Hopefully it would not be too long.
None of the Christmas songs in this story are mine – believe me, I can't write songs worth a lick. Because I have no interest in being sued, I'm giving credit to the following writers:
"Frosty the Snowman" – Jack Rollins and Steve Nelson
"Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" – Johnny Marks
"Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer" – Stuart Brooks