AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is a Christmas fic for Sabriel41, and the characters and setting are by her request. 'Twas much fun to write.

Cherish this moment.

I am watching them all, my arms propped up on the polished surface of the bar, and my chin resting in my hands. We have closed the bar early tonight, and though the sign hanging in the window reads "Closed" the lights are still on inside, and music is blaring from the wall speakers. It is Christmas, and Marlene and I have done our best to decorate these humble walls, to bring a festive mood to this place where ambitions are discussed and plans are made; never do those plans lead us down a pleasant road. We have strung row upon row of blinking colored lights from the roof, and we have hung decorations from every hook, ledge, and cranny. A small pine tree stands in the corner near the jukebox, positively dripping with tinsel. Said jukebox has been programmed for tonight to play Christmas songs, and only Christmas songs.

Marlene is caterwauling along to one of those songs now, perched precariously upon Barret's lap and enthusiastically ringing a cowbell in his ear to the rhythm of the song. His expression makes me giggle; it is a mixture of intense anguish and overwhelming affection. They are sitting at a booth close to the tree, and sitting close opposite them is Jessie. She has caught our holiday spirit; somewhere along the way she found a sprig of holly, and it is braided into the reddish lengths of her hair. She is singing along with Marlene, and though her voice is lovely to listen to, it is marred by the fact that she is erupting into occasional fits of laughter over Barret's situation.

Cherish this moment; this moment is your life.


My eyes move from the others to Biggs, who stands now in front of me. Clad entirely in red and green, with a lopsided Santa hat falling off to one side, he is a clear picture of seasonal festivity. He is holding a pool cue above my head, and as I crane my neck to look up, I find that he has attached some mistletoe to the end. He grins at me, waggling his eyebrows, and with a laugh I lean across the bar and plant a large kiss on his rosy cheek.

"Ingenious," I tell him.

"Thank you," he beams. "Do you think it will work on Jesse?"

I follow his gaze to the corner, where Marlene has now placed a large wreath upon Barret's head, and Jesse is doubled over with laughter. "There's only one way to find out," I tell him, and with another wide grin he sneaks off, attempting to use stealth to catch Jesse unawares. Shaking my head, I turn around and begin to pour myself a drink –nothing too strong, but something blatantly sweet. Glass in hand, I slip out from behind the bar and approach the booth.

"Bingle Jells! Bingle Jells! Bingle all the way … " Marlene shout-sings as I draw near. Barret has removed the wreath, and the offending piece of shrubbery is lying discarded now upon the floor. The exuberant child has not loosened her hold upon her bell, and as she sits now upon Barret's shoulders she is banging it vivaciously. Half disgruntled, half hopelessly amused, the large man reaches back and effortlessly removes the child. As he places her upon the floor she begins to run around, still striking the bell and singing. Barret slides over in the seat, giving me room to sit, and so I do.

"Why the hell did you give her that bell?" He demands of me, but he does so with a smile.

"She likes music," I respond, noticing with a grin that Biggs has reached the opportune position for his surprise attack. Oblivious, Jesse is humming along to the current song, head bobbing in time to the music.

"Jesse," Barret says.

She looks at him. He points up. She twists around to see the pool cue mistletoe dangling surreptitiously above her head. Shrieking with laughter, she scrambles out of the booth and darts away; giggling madly, Biggs follows after.

"Kids," Barret says with mock disgust.

"You love it." I reply, and sip from my drink. He makes a rude noise, but I know him for the softy he is; iron hard exterior, friendly, loving interior, though he would show it only to those he truly cared about. A sudden poke in the side makes me jump; I look down to find Marlene with a handful of candy canes that I had bought from the grocery store earlier today. She gives me two before running off in pursuit of Biggs and Jesse, and I hand one to Barret. Unwrapping it, I bite off a piece and chew, savoring the minty taste. One of my favourite parts of Christmas is the candy canes. Barret, watching me with amusement, says, "You'll rot your teeth."

I shrug. "I don't need them."

He snorts, unwraps his own, and shoves most of it into his mouth. My eyes wander the bar and find that Biggs has cornered Jesse; she gives him a kiss full on the lips that brings a furious and immediate blush to his face. Marlene hops into the seat opposite us, holding her own bit of mistletoe. Standing, she leans over and holds it over Barret.

"Kiss me?" She asks with a mischievous smile.

"Gross." Barret rumbles, but grabs her anyways and kisses her cheek. She squeals and squirms and he laughs, and I, observing, take another sip of my drink with a smile.

We are all happy tonight; we are all just people brought together by mutual affection. Nothing exists beyond that, none of our demons haunt us now, and for this one night we will allow ourselves to forget. Tomorrow will bring what it brings, but for now …

"Kiss me again!" Marlene demands, and Barret laughingly complies.

For now, we are a family.