I do not own the Care Bears. They are © to DiC and/or Nelvana or something. I do own Soulful Heart Fox. Regal Heart Lioness and associated characters belong to Mariel and I would like to thank her for letting me borrow them. Go read her stories!


It was Christmas time in Care-a-Lot. Tenderheart breathed in the cold air as he walked over the newly fallen snow. He smiled broadly.

I love this time of year. As he walked he saw Hugs and Tugs, all bundled up for the cold weather, playing in the snow as Grams Bear looked on. Proud Heart was making a snowman, or rather, a snow cat. Loyal Heart was busy trying to catch the falling flakes on his tongue and Cheer Bear was making snow angels. Over on the frozen Rainbow River, Cozy Heart was ice skating, proving to be as graceful on the water as she was in it. Swift Heart was also zipping across the pond, though Grumpy was having more trouble, falling on his rear every two minutes. Bright Heart and Gentle Heart were helping each other make a pair of snowmen as a ferocious snowball fight had broken out between Brave Heart and Lotsa Heart on one side and Playful Heart and Funshine Bear on the other, with newcomers joining in as they arrived.

"Whooof!" Tenderheart grunted as one snowball caught him right in the face. He fell over backwards, the snow cushioning his fall.

"Whoops! Sorry Tenderheart." Brave Heart apologized as he offered him a paw and helped him up.

"Don't worry about it."

"I guess I kinda got caught up in the fun." Brave Heart laughed. His laughter abruptly ended when a snowball thrown by Wish Bear hit him squarely in the neck. Tenderheart laughed as Brave Heart shook his mane out.

"Looks like you're not the only one."

"Everyone is, looks like." Brave Heart observed. "I just saw Noble Heart and True Heart going for a stroll through the Forest of Feelings." Tenderheart winced.

"...Well, not quite everyone…." He began. Brave Heart groaned.

"Don't tell me, let me guess. Soulful?"

"Soulful." Tenderheart agreed with a sigh. Soulful Heart Fox was the newest member of the Care Bear Family and probably the most difficult. At least from the perspective of trying to get him to lighten up and socialize. "I tried talking to him, to try to convince him to come outside and play. But he'd rather stay inside and read The Count of Monte Cristo."

"That doesn't sound like fun." Brave Heart said. Tenderheart just shrugged.

"I guess fun is in the eye of the beholder."

"It's still not right." The lion insisted. "Today's the kind of day you spend with your family. Everyone else is already outside and having a great time. There's no reason for him to be a shut in."

"I know, I know…"

"And tonight's Christmas Eve!" Brave Heart exclaimed, waving a paw for emphasis. "Don't tell me he's not coming to the party!" Tenderheart's hesitation was answer enough. "He's not coming?"

"That's what he told me."

"Oh that is it!" Brave Heart stomped off.

"Brave Heart, where are you going?" Tenderheart called.

"I'm gonna get that fox to that party even if I have to drag him there by his tail!" Braveheart yelled back as he headed to Soulful's house.

Trudging through the snow made for slow travel, but before long Brave Heart stood in Soulful's doorway. He was fortunate enough to find it unlocked. Soulful was the only family member who made his home with locks on the doors. Some of the others were hurt, thinking it a sign of distrust.

Brave Heart walked in, looking for his quarry. Soulful was sitting in his library—which comprised about half the house—reading. He didn't so much as bat an eye at Brave Heart's appearance. The fox made no move to even acknowledge his presence.

"Soulful, why are you—"

"Come in." Soulful said evenly, never lifting his eyes from the book. Brave Heart blinked in confusion.

"Uh, sorry?"

"I was just filling in the conversation that you seemed to have missed. Who's there? It's me, Brave Heart. Come in. How are you? Fine. And how are you? You skipped that part."

"Oh, well I—"

"You also missed the part where you wipe your feet." Soulful added putting his book down and frowning at the snow Brave Heart dragged in with him.

"Stop that!" Brave Heart said, irritated.

"Stop what?"

"Stop trying to confuse me!"

"I'm confusing you? You're the one who burst into my home unannounced and dragged snow and water all over my floor."

"Well yes, but…that's not important!"

"Well that's your opinion then, isn't it?" Soulful asked with a sniff. "I mean if I ever went into your home unannounced without wiping my feet…come to think of it I can't imagine any circumstance in which I would visit your home, unannounced or otherwise."

Brave Heart put a paw to his temples; he was getting a headache. "Soulful. Look. I'm here because you're not spending time with the rest of the family."

"Aren't we spending time together now? And I daresay neither one of us seems to be enjoying ourselves."

"This isn't what I meant! Soulful, I want you to come to tonight's Christmas Party." Soulful raised a questioning eyebrow.


"Why?" Brave Heart repeated incredulously.

"You know there's an echo in here that sounds just like you?" Soulful asked in a semi-decent Groucho Marx impression.

"Soulful…" Brave Heart growled, his rational arguments forgotten. "You're going to that party. That's an order."

"An order is it?" Soulful's nostrils flared, his banter forgotten too. "Forgive me if I'm not inclined to obey it." This wasn't going at all well.

"I think I ought to remind you that I'm the leader of the Care Cousins." Brave Heart reminded him, unconsciously puffing out his chest a little. Soulful wasn't impressed.

"And the first thing any leader," Soulful practically turned the word into an insult, "Should know is to never give an order they know wont be obeyed. It makes it less likely that any following orders will be obeyed."

Dead silence prevailed for a minute that seemed to stretch on for an eternity. Brave Heart tried staring the fox down, but saw that there wasn't an iota of give in Soulful's eyes. Never get into a starting contest with Soulful. He reminded himself belatedly. Frustrated and disgusted, he turned around and stomped out. Soulful followed him to the door and slammed it shut the second Brave Heart was outside.

Definitely didn't go well. Brave Heart thought to himself as he left. Not well at all.

Soulful hadn't taken the meeting well either. In fact he started pacing the instant the door had closed.

That arrogant jackanapes! Where does he come off— His angry tirade was interrupted by a knock on the door. Opening it up he prepared another barrage in case it was Brave Heart again. Waiting on the front steps however, was none other than Bright Heart, his best friend.

"I take it you weren't expecting me?" He asked with a quirked eyebrow, seeing Soulful's tense posture.

"No, but better a unexpected visit from a friend than a expected visit from the other kind. Come on in."

"Thank you." Bright Heart wiped his feet at the door, earning a grunt of approval from Soulful who was already sweeping up the mess Brave Heart brought in. "I take it you've already had company then?" Bright Heart.

"Yes." Soulful said tersely as he mopped up the last of the mess. Most would've been put off by his bluntness but Bright Heart knew him well enough not to take offense.

"I saw Brave Heart on the way here." Bright Heart mentioned conversationally. "It looked like he was coming from here." Soulful didn't say a thing. "He also looked pretty upset about something." Bright Heart added.

Soulful just muttered something uncomplimentary under his breath.

"Do you want to talk about it?" Bright Heart got a snort as a response, which he took to be a yes. He just waited for Soulful to get started.

"Brave Heart tried giving me an order he had no business to make." Soulful ground out, lashing his tail angrily.

"He tried forcing you to go to the Christmas Party, didn't he?" Soulful nodded. Bright Heart sighed. "Well, Brave Heart probably came on a bit too strong when he spoke to you, but—"

"You think he's right." Soulful said sounding almost hurt.

"Yes, I think he is." Soulful sighed, but Bright Heart pressed on. "It's Christmas, don't you think you should try spending some time with the family?"

"Brave Heart tried that line."

"It isn't a line. They want you to be there tonight, but you push them away. Why?" Soulful looked away.

"I just don't feel like celebrating tonight."

"But it's Christmas!" Bright Heart implored, as if that simple statement made everything clear. Soulful looked confused. They were speaking the same language, but neither really understood what the other was saying.


"Oh, don't go all Ebeneezer on me." Bright Heart said, a touch exasperated. "Christmas is a time for being with family; for being happy and re—" Bright Heart trailed off. But Soulful caught what Bright Heart left unsaid.

"Remembering?" Soulful laughed bitterly. "What have I worth remembering? Decades of misery? And what have I to look forward to? Spending the rest of my life as the family crank. The oddball. The freak. So you'll forgive me if I'm not in a celebratory mood."

"Soulful…" Bright Heart said, apologetic and pleading at the same time. The fox just turned away.

"Please, I just want some time alone right now." He said softly as he headed for his bedroom. Bright Heart's shoulders slumped in defeat. He headed for the door. Just before he closed it behind him he managed to get the final word in.

"Your only going to be as happy as you let yourself be." Bright Heart called. There was no response.

With one last shake of his head, Bright Heart was gone.

Regal Heart Lioness was taken aback when her brother, Brave Heart, arrived at her home looking fit to breath fire. "What—"

"Oooh it's that fox!" Brave Heart fumed. "He is the most stubborn, the most infuriating…"

"Whoa, calm down there." Guiding him to the couch, Regal sat down and suggested that Brave Heart should too. "Now, calmly, tell me what happened." Still smoldering, Brave Heart took a deep breath and recounted his meeting with Soulful Heart. By the time he got to the part where he left, Regal let out a low whistle.

"Sounds like things got out of hand." Brave Heart nodded.

"I suppose it did. But Soulful's—"

"Stubborn? So I've heard." It also probably didn't help matters that it was Brave Heart who had gone to try to convince Soulful Heart either. Regal had seen that the fox didn't care much for her brother and his tendency at be a bit overbearing. She had once heard him call Brave Heart a "militaristic nincompoop." She didn't appreciate hearing that.

"But I can be pretty stubborn too. Maybe I should try talking to him."

"You?" He asked incredulously. "Not that I think you can't—" He added hastily as she shot him an annoyed glance.

"Good," Regal said with a smile. "Because I can; and will. Tell Stellar I'll be a little late." Not giving Brave Heart a chance to say a word, Regal left in search of Soulful Heart. She didn't find him at home but had a pretty good idea where he was.

Usually when he was upset or angry, Soulful tended to walk through the Forest of Feelings to cool off. She'd once come across him there after, yet another, disastrous attempt to throw a party for Soulful Heart, a thoroughly anti-social, anti-party animal.

And here I am trying to convince him to go to another party. She thought ruefully. Using her tummy symbol, Regal Heart conjured up a Cloud Mobile and drove off searching for Soulful Heart.

Soulful was, at that moment, exactly where Regal thought he would be: sitting on a log in the Forest of Feelings, sulking. Not that he thought of it as sulking, of course. To him, it was "reflecting."

His "reflecting" came to an abrupt halt when Regal Heart pulled up, actually, dropping down right next to him and beeping the horn. Soulful leapt twice his height into the air from sheer surprise, landing in an undignified heap on his rear.

"Are you all right?" Regal asked concerned, though trying very hard not to laugh at his reaction.

"Been better." He panted as he dragged himself up grateful that his red fur hid his blush. "My heart is beating so fast…"

"Hop in." Too startled to argue, Soulful climbed aboard. "You'll forgive me if I drive." Regal added as Soulful buckled himself in. He just grunted.

"Not at all." His own attempts at the wheels of Cloud Mobiles were none too impressive. Once he ended up crashing into the Hall of Hearts. And that wasn't even his worst attempt. After a while everyone decided that it would be simpler if he didn't drive. Soulful wasn't heartbroken about the decision either.

"I'd ask how your day was going," Regal started, "but I already have a pretty good idea."

"You've talked to Brave Heart or Bright Heart?" He asked.

"I've spoken to Brave Heart. He was pretty upset. What's this about Bright Heart?" Soulful fidgeted slightly.

"He came to pick up where Brave Heart left off."

"So would that mean that I'm picking up where Bright Heart left off?" Regal asked with a smile, trying to lighten the mood.

"I don't think the third time's going to be the charm." The fox said, not cheered in the least. "I'm still not going to any Christmas Party."

"So I've heard. What's got you in such a humbug attitude anyway?"

"Humbug atti…Bright Heart already compared me to Ebeneezer Scrooge."

"Well you have been visited by three beings in an attempt to change your mind about Christmas…" Regal said with a smile she couldn't suppress.

"The ghost of Christmas Future you aren't." Soulful retorted.

"True." Regal admitted. "I'm not here to scare you straight."

"That's my shtick anyway." Soulful answered. Regal rolled here eyes. That actually was Soulful Heart's preferred method when it came to dealing with troubled children who lashed out at others. It worked pretty well too, from what Regal Heart had seen.

"Anyway, I was hoping to try to change your mind about Christmas…" She raised a paw to head off the protest she knew was coming. "I'm not going to say whether or not you should go to the party we're throwing, but I think you should come with me and see if I can change your perceptions of Christmas. Hopefully," She added "You might come to see this time of year in a different light." Soulful crossed his arms.

"And if I want you to simply take me home now?" He asked. Regal gave him a very tooth filled smile.

"Then you can get out and walk home." Soulful looked down. As they were talking Regal had flown the Cloud Mobile out of the Kingdom of Caring and were already heading down to Earth. But it was still a long way down.

"I think I'll stay put." Soulful relented in a small voice.

"I thought as much. Come on, we're going on a Caring Mission, see if we can't put you in the Christmas spirit."

Soulful said nothing, which was probably a smart move. He just peered over the side…and immediately regretted it. I hate heights. The fox thought mournfully as he turned a shade of green Good Luck would've proud of. From what he did see though, they seemed to be heading for someplace on the Atlantic coast of the United States, where it was already getting dark.

Regal saw her passenger's complexion even through the waning light. "That brings back memories. Remember the Cloud Clipper incident?" Soulful groaned, making Regal smile.

Shortly after Soulful Heart arrived, Regal tried showing him how to make a routine maintenance check on the Cloud Clipper. He accidentally raised the ship's anchor when he hit the wrong button. Before they knew it, the two of them were out in the middle of the Rainbow River and horribly seasick to boot.

Soulful's stomach twisted uncomfortably in memory of that earlier queasiness. He swallowed, hoping his stomach would handle itself better this time.

"So what's this about a mission?" Soulful wheezed.

"There's a family that moved into a new town and haven't made any friends yet. It's their first holiday there and could use the company."

"Sounds simple enough." Soulful said, his face noticeably less green at this point.

"Trust me, it'll be fun and we'll get to help these people out and…" Regal grinned as the Cloud Mobile set down on the ground, "We'll manage to teach you a thing or two about Christmas spirit."

"Don't count your eggs before they're nog." Soulful replied as they climbed out.

"Come on wise guy. This'll be great." Soulful Heart followed Regal as she strode up to the front door and knocked.

"Um, what did you say the name of this family was again?" Soulful asked as he looked at something on the doorway.

"Cohen. Why—"

"Oh, hello," said the man who chose that minute to open the door. "You're Care Bears, aren't you? Come in." Regal and Soulful put on big smiles as they stepped into the door. They were immediately struck by the absence of a Christmas tree and the presence of a menorah, a dreidel, and latkes. The two Cousins kept smiling widely.

"Christmas Spirit huh?" Soulful asked out of the corner of his mouth in a stage whisper.

"Oh shut up." Regal whispered back in a sotto voice.

Later that evening, the two of them bade their farewells to the Cohens and headed back to the Cloud Mobile. "Well it was still fun." Regal said.

"I'm not going to argue." Soulful answered as he popped a piece of gelt into his mouth. Regal rolled her eyes.

"Another Hanukkah miracle." She murmured. Soulful glared at her, though they both knew it was in jest.

"Funny." Soulful said. "Have you ever thought about having a Hanukkah celebration instead of Christmas? Eight nights of presents…" He offered. Regal stroked her chin.

"Hmmm, maybe. But then there'd be eight nights of parties. We'd all be too exhausted to do any missions the next day." Soulful made a face.

"Spoilsport. Want any?" He said, offering the bag of gelt he won.

"No thanks."

"What? You'd rather have Twinkies with mustard on them?" Soulful asked, wrinkling his nose in disgust. He actually had seen Regal Heart eat that. Of course she was pregnant at the time, hence the weird craving, but it was still nauseating.

"I filled up on potato pancakes." Regal explained, not rising to the bait. "Nice of them to give us the recipe."

"Now if I could only cook I'd be in business."

"You could always come over. Stellar and I could probably make them for a meal." Soulful shot her a wary expression.

"The last time I was over at your home, your daughter decided to make a meal of me."

"Connie said she was sorry. Are you ever going to let that go?"

"Ask me that when the tooth marks in my tail heal." Soulful said, grabbing his tail for emphasis. Regal Heart sighed.

"You're impossible." Soulful just bowed as if praised.

"Thank you." The conversation hit a lull as they both climbed into the Cloud Mobile and took off.

"What was your favorite part of the evening?" Regal asked. "Wining big at the dreidel game?" Soulful shook his head and started snickering.

"Nah, my favorite moment was when your brother showed up." That set Regal Heart off too.

"That was great." She said in between laughs. Soulful laughed too.

"He walked through the door…"

"…in a Santa Claus outfit!" Regal finished with a giggle. "You're never going to let him live that one down, are you?"

"Would you?" Soulful asked. Regal smiled

"Now that you mention it…no." Soulful's chuckled.

"He looked ridiculous. More than usual, I mean." He added as an afterthought.

"Hey now," Regal admonished. "My brother may do some foolish things on occasion," Soulful shot her a glance that seemed to suggest that it happened far more than 'on occasion,' but Regal ignored it. "But we all have our off moments." Soulful just rolled his eyes. "There was a certain incident when a newbie still learning how to use his tummy symbol managed to propel himself backwards…right onto Grams Bear, if I recall."

Soulful blushed at the reminder of that accident. Regal saw she struck a nerve. "I don't mean to embarrass you, but I just want to remind you that everyone makes mistakes. Grams didn't hold it against you and the Cohens didn't hold it against Brave Heart, neither should you."

"Maybe." Soulful said as his face returned to its normal hue, "But the look on his face when he realized what was going on was priceless." Regal nodded.

"That's true. He just finished saying 'Ho, ho, ho' and halfway through wishing them a Merry Christmas before he figured it out."

That set them both off again, and it was some time before their laughs subsided. "You're in a rare mood." Regal noted, hoping Soulful wouldn't get self-conscious about it. Soulful however, just blinked.

"I guess I am at that." He said with something just short of amazement in his voice.

"Mind if I asked what had you in such a bad mood earlier?" Soulful sighed.

"…I didn't really have anything worth celebrating and everyone else did. It just made me feel like I was missing out."

"And their constant asking you to go to the party just seemed to rub your face in it." Regal concluded. "Is that it?" Soulful nodded. "But you do have something worth celebrating you know." Regal told him, earning a questioning look. "You have a family and your freedom."

"I'm not so sure about the former." Soulful said. "They don't feel like family."

"If you've never had a family, how will you know what it does feel like?" Soulful didn't answer.

"So are we going to head back now?" He asked.

"If you want to. It's up to you." Regal said.

"I think…" Soulful hesitated. "Do you think we could stop somewhere and…" what he said next was too low for her to here.

"I'm sorry, and what?"

"Could we stop somewhere and pick up a few…things?"

"What kind of things?" Regal asked, confused. Soulful's face heated.

"Something for Bright Heart and Gentle Heart." He mumbled. Regal smiled.

"Of course we can. Do you know what you want to get them?" He shook his head. "That's okay, I'm sure we can think of something. Come on. Let's go someplace where the stores are still open."

One of the advantages to traveling by Cloud Car was that they could take the riders anyplace in the world, including areas where it was still light out. Regal Heart landed in front of a mall she had frequented before. She and Soulful gathered more than a few glances, but she didn't mind. She could tell Soulful was still unused to the attention so she tried to keep his mind off it.

"Do you know what hobbies Bright Heart and Gentle Heart have?" She asked.

"Well Bright Heart likes inventing, I'm sure you've noticed." He said dryly. Regal nodded.

"I have." She said, no less dryly.

"And Gentle Heart…I think she likes to knit when she isn't taking care of her garden, but I'm not sure."

"No, you're right. She does. In fact," Regal added, "She knit a new wool blanket for my cubs."

"Did she? You know I always wondered what she did with the excess wool she sheared off her head."

"Well, now you know. Maybe you could get her a cross-stitch pattern. I'm sure she'd love that. Bright Heart, I think, could use a new tool box."

"No kidding." Soulful said. "The last time I visited him he had his tools laying all over the place. I ended up stepping on one of his screwdrivers."

"Ooooh" Regal winced sympathetically. "I think a new tool box is definitely a good idea."

"One question: How're we supposed to pay for these things?" Regal waved those worries aside.

"Don't worry about that. We once helped the manager of the mall's daughter make some new friends. He said that if we ever needed anything we could come here, no charge."

"Sounds good." Regal regarded him curiously as they made their rounds through the mall, picking up the cross-stitch pattern, tool box, and one or two other things Regal suggested for other family members. Through it all though, something was weighing on her mind. Soulful picked up on it rather quickly.

"Something wrong?" He asked. Regal shook her head.

"Nothing's wrong, but I am wondering why you're being as cooperative as you are. No offense, but I expected you to be far more…combative than you have been tonight." Soulful shuffled his feet and stared at the floor as he mumbled an answer.

"You've done me a few good turns. Felt right that I should give you the benefit of the doubt." Regal nodded, knowing what he was referring to.

"I see." Some time ago, during the aftermath of the last disastrous party thrown for Soulful Heart, he hadn't wanted to go back to his home where the party had been held. Regal had loaned him her cell phone and suggested that he spend the night at someone else's home. He spent the night at Bright Heart's and was in a much better mood when he returned her cell phone the next day. Apparently that gesture meant more than Soulful had let on at the time.

Soulful coughed. "I think we should be heading back."

"You're right." Regal agreed. The two of them made good time getting back to the Cloud Mobile and then back to the Kingdom of Caring. Regal parked the car near Soulful's house and gave him a hand in carrying the bags.

"Thanks again for tonight. I didn't realize how much I needed it." Soulful said.

"Aww, think nothing of it. You're family. Besides, I enjoyed myself too you know."

"I suppose you did at that." Soulful admitted with a laugh.

"You should really laugh more often." Regal said. Soulful rolled his eyes, a favorite expression of his.

"I sound like a braying donkey."

"You do not." Regal insisted. "I'm serious. Therapeutically, you should have a good belly laugh sometime."

"I don't do belly laughs. Besides, too much laughing gives people hiccups."

"Ah." Regal said with sympathy. "I can see why you'd want to avoid that." Soulful once let out a particularly loud, squeaky sounding hiccup during a lull in the Breakfast conversation at the Hall of Hearts. From what Regal had seen, Soulful didn't handle embarrassment well.

Soulful, clearly not wanting to dwell on that kept walking. "We should be at my house soon."

"That's good." Regal said. "I think my arms about to fall—OOF!" She said as she suddenly bumped into Soulful Heart, who had stopped short. "Why did you stop?" Soulful just pointed. Regal followed his finger. Covering his front steps were literally dozens of wrapped and packaged gifts, with bows and all.

As they walked closer they could see that these were Christmas presents, brightly wrapped, and clearly, all for Soulful.

Soulful stood in stunned silence for a full minute before articulating his first thoughts.

"I'm going to kill them."

Regal whipped her head around, surprised at his words, before she heard the tone that accompanied them. He sounded…touched?

Sure enough, Regal caught him sniffling a bit. Catching her gaze he said defensively, "It's cold out here. Let's get this stuff inside so we can get in and warm up."

Regal nodded and set about helping him gather up the gifts on the steps and bringing them inside the door. It took a few minutes, but they eventually got them all in.

"There has to be one from everyone in the family." Regal said.

"…But why?" Soulful asked, his voice betraying the worry in his mind that this was somehow a trick.

"Because they care about you. Is it that hard to believe?" Regal whispered. Soulful sniffled again, this time not even bothering to pretend that it was the cold. Even Regal felt a twinge of shock when he wiped his eyes with the back of his paw.

"…Is this what if feels like?" Soulful asked her softly.

"Does what feels like?"

"Having a family." She nodded.

"Yes. Yes it does." She looked down at the gift she was currently holding. "I know it's a bit early, but I think you can open these now." Soulful gently took the package Regal was opening and read the card.

"I think this one is from Grumpy. I wonder what…" He mused as he tore the wrapping off. She saw that it was a book but was surprised when Soulful started snickering.

"What's so funny?" Regal asked. Soulful didn't even try answering. He just handed the book to her. She took one look at the cover and promptly burst into peels of laughter.

"Climb Your Stairway to Heaven: The Nine Habits of Maximum Happiness? And Grumpy gave this to you?" She laughed.

Soulful didn't immediately open any more presents, he just looked at the cards. Sure enough, everyone in the family did send him a present. Even Brave Heart.

"Say Regal, why don't you open this one?" Soulful asked as he tossed her a gift that had been marked 'From Playful Heart.'

"Oh no, I'm not gonna open it, it's your gift." Regal said as she offered the package back to Soulful. He shook his head and pushed the gift back to her.

"Not a chance. It's probably booby trapped."

"Who would booby trap a Christmas present?"

"Playful Heart would." Regal winced. Soulful had a point. They both had learned very quickly after joining the Care Bear Family to be wary of Playful's pranks. Neither cared to sit on another one of his whoopee cushions. Regal had to suppress a giggle when she thought about the look on Soulful's face the first time it happened to him.

"I'm not going to open it." Regal insisted.

"I'm not going to open it either. Not without the Bomb Disposal Unit anyway."

"You open it!"

"No, you open it!"


"You!" Both were clearly enjoying themselves as they kept pushing the gift back and forth, determined not to be the one to open it. After a few more exchanges, Regal yielded.

"Oh, fine I'll open it up ya baby!" Regal finally exclaimed. "Honestly, my cubs are more mature than that!"

"Say what you will," Soulful said as he took cover behind a pile of packages. "But you can't be too careful where Playful Heart is concerned."

Regal unwrapped the box as Soulful put his fingers in his ears. "There, you see? Nothing happened." Lifting the lid off revealed a cake. "It's just a—" A sudden spring launched the cake straight into Regal's face.

She couldn't see Soulful but she could hear him giggling. "And everyone calls me paranoid."

"Laugh it up wise guy. It could've been you."

"But it wasn't. So there." Regal calmly scooped the cake out of her eyes and tossed it in his face.

"Now it is." Before a full-fledged food fight could break out, Regal looked at the clock on the wall. "The party started a couple minutes ago. Stellar's probably waiting for me. If you don't mind, I'm just going to wash up and join the others." Soulful just nodded and pointed to the direction of his bathroom while he went to go wash his own face at the kitchen sink.

When they had both cleaned up, Regal headed for the door. "It's been a great evening. I hope that you changed your mind about this time of year." Taking a big chance she gave him a brief hug and was happy to find that he didn't pull away. "Bye."

Regal was halfway down the front steps when she heard Soulful say, "Wait." Turning around she saw Soulful carrying the gifts he got from the mall. "Mind if I join you?"

Regal shook her head and smiled. "Not in the slightest. Let's go surprise the others." Soulful nodded.

"Can't wait to see their faces."

"They'll probably look like the Whos down in Who Town when the Grinch's heart grew three sizes…"

"Oh ha ha." Soulful said sarcastically. Regal smirked.

"Or maybe they'll look like Bob Cratchit's family when Ebeneezer Scrooge showed up on Christmas morning and made him a partner…"

"Don't push your luck."

"Come on! All we need is Tiny Tim."

"Knock it off."

"God bless us, every—"

"Oh shut up."