Merry Little Christmas

Disclaimer: Yuugi and friends belong to their respective owners, not me.

Notes: This year we're focusing on Amelda, Raphael, and Varon. A brief cultural note, because the story is set in Japan: Christmas is not a national holiday in Japan, nor does it have religious significance for most Japanese, because most Japanese are not Christian. Quite a few Japanese have adopted its (commercial-y) traditions, though (trees, presents, Santa, etc.), and that's kinda what's going on in this fic.

Liu (the cat) is property of Luckyladybug; she's just letting me borrow her for the fic.

He should have known something like this was bound to happen, but on Christmas Eve? Raphael sighed as he grabbed his coat and headed for the door. He passed the Christmas tree, it's top bending to fit in the small living room, because Varon went and picked the biggest artificial tree in the entire store, probably.

Everything started with the tree, Raphael thought dryly. Christmases in Domino City were celebrated a lot differently than the Christmases of their childhoods, but Varon had made a valiant attempt to ignore this fact. He'd wanted a real Christmas tree, like the ones that would fill the sanctuary of the church he grew up in with a piney, earthy scent. Amelda hadn't understood the big deal behind the tree, and he hadn't pretended to either.

Varon had wanted a real tree, but you didn't find many Christmas tree "farms" in Japan. So Varon was forced to settle with an artificial tree from the local department store.

The one he picked was pre-lighted. Thank goodness for small mercies.

He'd picked up boxes of nice ornaments, too, until Amelda looked at him flatly and said, "Just how much money do you think we have for this sort of thing, anyway?" and both he and Raphael had felt for Varon when, after a pause, he went and put back the fancy ornaments, grabbing a large economy pack of cheap baubles instead.

Varon had tried to get the other two interested in decorating, with little success. He did it himself, mostly; with Liu, their overly friendly Ragdoll cat, venturing into the living room to bat at the lowest branches.

Since then, Varon had been restless, getting frustrated over little things.

Raphael reached for the door and Liu darted after him, as though she wanted to come with him. She changed her mind, though, as soon as Raphael opened the door and a gust of cold air blew in.

Amelda had been spending more and more time in his room this week. They both knew to give him room when he got like this.

Varon had spent most of today on the couch, watching television. Well, Raphael couldn't see how he was really watching it; Varon didn't seem to be able to pick one channel and stick with it.

"Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas!" blared the television, pestering the living room with bright colors and smiling faces. Varon huffed in frustration and turned off the TV, throwing the remote on the couch.

"What's wrong?" Raphael asked flatly.

"They're doing it all wrong," Varon muttered in reply. "Christmas, I mean." Raphael didn't say anything and Varon jumped to his feet, making his way into the hallway with heavy, noisy footsteps. It was like the silence frightened him.

Varon stopped just below the stairs and looked up them. Growling in frustration, he turned and began to head for the door.

"This is stupid!" he burst out.

Raphael understood now; it seemed Amelda's solitary, melancholy behavior was bothering Varon. He could understand the brunette's aggravation, but at the same time he wondered why Varon didn't seem to understand these things took time. It was hard for all three of them, at this time when one is supposed to be surrounded by family.

Varon was reaching for the doorknob and Raphael wanted then to stop him; he wanted to tell him it would be all right, and not to go... But he didn't. He couldn't seem to say those things. "Don't take your motorcycle," he warned instead. "It could be icy out there."

Varon snorted and shut the door behind him. A moment later, Raphael heard the sound of Varon revving up his yellow motorcycle, and it speeding away.

It was perhaps an hour or so after Varon's departure that Amelda came downstairs.

"Varon left?" he asked.

Raphael nodded. Amelda was pretending the brunette had only left shortly before, and they were both aware of it.

"Why'd he do that?"

"He's upset," Raphael answered, "because it's Christmas Eve."

"Well, I'm not going to get him," Amelda practically glowered, heading out the door as well. And in an out-of-character act of frustration, he slammed the door behind him.

And so here was Raphael, heading out into the cold night. Memories of childhood Christmases were coming back to him now, as though the cold was an electric shock to his brain.


All three children loved Christmas.

It was a fun time where the whole family got together. Father would put off work for a while, and Mama wouldn't preoccupy herself with things like parties or what was referred to as 'the social grapevine'. Raphael didn't really know what that was, but it meant a lot to Mama.

Father's work meant a lot to him, too. There was one year, one that Julien was too little to remember, when Father was in Switzerland for business on Christmas Day. It was definitely not the same without Father. When he came home a few days later, he kissed them all and promised he would do everything he could to make sure that never happened again.

He did bring them all an exquisite music box that played The Nutcracker Suite.

Father liked to tell stories around Christmas when he had the time, and Raphael's favorite was The Nutcracker. One year, on a chilly night a few days before Christmas, his parents took him to see the ballet, and he adored every minute of it.

The three had been walking to the car where the chauffeur was waiting when Raphael bumped into someone, and when he looked there was a girl about his age holding hands with a little boy who must've been her brother. They were thin and pale, and looked quite cold.

And Raphael wanted to make some sort of Christmas magic, like Uncle Drosselmeyer did in the story. Without thinking he shrugged off his coat and handed it to the two. For a moment they simply stared at him and the coat, then smiled and ran off.

Raphael grinned as he joined his waiting parents at the car.

"That's my boy," said Father, clapping a hand on his shoulder.

Mama smiled. "This is the time to be charitable, and we've outgrown so many things... I'll arrange tomorrow for someone to donate them to a charity; won't that be nice?"

Raphael nodded slowly, realizing his parents hadn't understood the magic of the moment. He was only eleven, but he knew simply dropping off old clothes wasn't the same as actually giving them to someone.

Raphael knew that poverty existed, but it was something far away from his world.

After all, he and his two siblings were spoiled terribly around Christmas. During every day in December, in fact, Julien would ask how many days were left until Christmas. His eagerness was endearing at first, but by the fifteenth or so his exuberance was driving everyone crazy.

Luckily there were things to keep him and his siblings occupied. Like sledding. Oh, sledding was great fun. Julien would take it upon himself to wake up his brother and sister on snowy mornings, and if it weren't too early for the older children, the three would go pester one of the maids or butlers to get out the sleds and the winter coats for them.

A few days after Raphael went to see The Nutcracker, they came in from sledding and Sonia held a shivering, tawny kitten.

"Oh, no," said Mrs. Laroche, the cook, upon seeing the kitten. "Your mother would never allow it!"

"But look at him!" Julien whined.

"Her," Sonia corrected.

"It wouldn't hurt just to feed it..." Raphael said.

"It's a her!" Sonia repeated. "Her name's Lynette!"

Mrs. Laroche sighed. The kitten mewed softly in Sonia's arms, as if sighing as well.

"Well, what if she's lost?" she said to Sonia. "What if there some other little girl who misses her terribly?"

Sonia looked down at Lynette and bit her lip... "Well, what if she's not lost?" she countered brightly.

"I suppose it wouldn't hurt to give her a warm place for the night," Mrs. Laroche said. "Lord knows I can't leave one of His creatures out in this weather, not this close to Christmas."

All three children cheered.

"But we're putting a lost-and-found ad in the paper!" she added, though the children were already rushing to the refrigerator for some milk.

They had a wonderful time with Lynette; they came down to the kitchen every day to play with her and feed her. She grew much stronger in the week or so that the children kept her.

They were about to sit down for Christmas Eve dinner when there came a knock at the front door.

They heard Mr. Rye, the butler, opening the huge oak doors. "I saw your ad in the newspaper," came the quiet voice of a young girl. "About my cat."

By now, Raphael, Sonia, and Julien were all at the top of the stairs, listening. "Oh no," Sonia said disapointedly.

They heard Mr. Rye tell the girl to wait. He headed up the stairs, but we nearly knocked down by the three children dashing down the stairs.

The girl at the door looked a little older than Sonia but younger than Raphael. Her blonde scraggly hair framed her hopeful face.

Sonia sighed. "Wait here..." she said, going towards the kitchen.

She returned with Lynette in her arms and tears in her eyes.

"Oh, Aimie!" the girl said happily, taking back the kitten. "I was so afraid you'd been hurt!" She turned with sparkling eyes to Sonia, Raphael, and Julien. "Oh, thank you so much for taking care of her! She was an early Christmas present, and I was afraid I'd never see her again!"

Sonia nodded glumly, and the girl's smile dimmed a bit. "Maybe...maybe Aimie and I can visit you sometimes. We could all play together." Sonia nodded again, bolstering her courage.

"I'd like that," she said, in her best proper voice.

The girl smiled, genuine and warm on this cold Christmas Eve. "Bye!" she waved, running out the door as quickly as she'd come.

The three children all went to the window, watching her hug her parents who had been waiting outside. The three turned and waved to the children in the window, singing carols as they walked along.

"She would've been sad if she never got her cat back," Raphael said, taking Sonia's hand.

"Mm, you're right," Sonia smiled, shrugging.

Julien reached around and took Raphael's other hand and the three went to have dinner with their parents.

Raphael grinned at his two siblings then - he was proud of them. It had been an unselfish Christmas, and Raphael found the smiles of those children - the little girl and her cat, or the two siblings whom he'd given his coat to - were much brighter and warmer than any of the presents he would open tomorrow.

It had been a little magical. It had been his last Christmas with his family.

End flashback

Amelda was drawn to the orphanage like a moth to a light. He went there often, and tonight he found the children busily making Christmas decorations.

It wasn't long before Seiji, a little boy of whom Amelda was especially fond, noticed the redhead's presence and ran over to him. "Merry Christmas!" he cried happily. "Lookee what I made!" From behind his back he pulled out a paper snowflake tied to a loop of string. The whole thing was covered in golden glitter, and Amelda could see the glue was still wet. He smiled and nodded approvingly.

The child beamed. "I was kinda hoping you'd come by," he said, shuffling his feet a bit. "I made a couple of these, but this one's the best. I...kinda wanted to give it to you..." Amelda blinked in surprise.

"You don't have a Christmas tree?" Seiji asked, looking dismayed.

"No, that's not it..." He took the paper ornament. "Thank you, Seiji."

The boy grinned and bounced on the balls of his feet. One of the caretakers suddenly clapped her hands. "It's almost time for bed!" she said. "We want to be asleep for when Santa Claus comes, don't we?"

Seiji stopped in mid-bounce and looked up at Amelda. "Is Santa Claus real?" he asked. "'Cause the whole story sounds kinda fishy to me..."

Amelda ruffled the boy's hair. "I don't know... Nobody's ever met him, have they?"

Seiji looked deep in thought. "I guess you're right..." Suddenly his eyes widened and he looked worried. "Does he still come, even if you think maybe he's not real? M-maybe I'm gonna get a lump of coal!"

Amelda shook his head. "Oh, I wouldn't worry about that, Seiji. Santa knows sometimes it's hard to believe, I think."

"Time for bed!" called the ladies, ushering children up the stairs.

Seiji looked a little disappointed. "I guess I'd better get going." Suddenly, he threw his arms around Amelda's waist. "Merry Christmas!"

Amelda looked down at him in surprise but didn't pull away; the child was warm and he knew that outside it would be bitingly cold.

He left shortly thereafter, and Seiji's innocent question about Santa Claus had him thinking. It was the Christmas after his mother's death that he realized Santa couldn't possibly be real, Amelda recalled. But he did not, of course, tell Miruko of the conclusion he'd come to. He just wanted his brother to have a chance to be happy.

But there were many times that holiday season that Amelda found himself wanting to believe so much; he had been thrust rudely into the grown-up world, and he didn't like what he'd seen so far.

It certainly had, though, been a very memorable Christmas...


"D'ya think Santa will be able to find us here?" Miruko asked suddenly.

"'Course he will," Amelda answered. "He knows when we're naughty and nice, right?"

'Here' was the temporary home that Amelda and Miruko lived in with Mrs. Finch and her three children. The Crales and Finches had lived across from each other, until their houses had been destroyed in the air raid that also killed Amelda and Miruko's mother.

Amelda would forever be grateful to Mrs. Finch for taking him and his brother in because had she not, the brothers would have had to fend for themselves; their father, too, was dead – he'd been killed in action.

Miruko was currently working on a letter to Santa Claus; his wish list was getting a bit long. Amelda bit his lip. "Hey... you know, Santa probably isn't gonna be able to bring you all that stuff this year..."

Miruko blinked his gray eyes and looked up at his brother. "How come?" he asked. Amelda paused, fumbling for an answer...

"Because most of Santa's elves are busy flying warplanes for us," said Jim, the oldest Finch child, coming through the front door and bringing with him both the cold air and the rest of his family.

"Oh," Miruko said. "...Cool!" he exclaimed suddenly, jumping up and 'flying' around the room with his arms outstretched, and he was quickly joined by Kenzie, the younger Finch brother. Amelda looked up at Jim gratefully; at thirteen, Jim was three years his senior and his role model.

Bringing up the rear was Mrs. Finch and Nina, the middle child. The family had been out grocery shopping, and though he was a little disappointed, Amelda was not surprised to see they'd only managed to bring home one bag.

"What do you want for Christmas?" Miruko asked, breaking away from his game and tugging Amelda's arm.

The first answer that came to him was surprising in its childishness – "Snow."

"So we can go sledding," Jim said enthusiastically, nodding.

"And do snowball fights!" Miruko added.

"You forgot about making snowmen!" Nina giggled.

"I want a soccer ball," Kenzie added suddenly, and they all laughed at the four-year-old's antics.

Mrs. Finch and Nina had been working on dinner, with what they had, when suddenly the familiar sound of sirens tore through the peace. It was an air raid.

Jim sprang into action, gathering blankets, and Mrs. Finch began ushering the other children into the underground shelter. It was cold and the floors were made of dirt, but it was strong, at least.

Jim was the last one in, closing the trapdoor behind him, and the waiting began.

"I'm cold, Mommy," Kenzie said miserably, sitting on his mother's lap and cuddling close to her.

"Me too," Miruko said softly, clinging to his brother's arm and burying his face in Amelda's shoulder.

He looked at the two youngest children, and anger swelled in his chest. It was Christmas Eve. How could they be doing this tonight, which was supposed to be such a happy occasion?

Supposed to be. So many things were 'supposed to be'. Mama and Dad were supposed to be alive. Their house was supposed to be still standing. But they weren't, and it wasn't. And Amelda missed it all so much. He missed the old Christmases; he could remember Dad coming into the kitchen and pulling Mama into a sort-of frenzied waltz, singing carols as loud as he could. And Mama would laugh, and say she had to get back to her pies...

Amelda squeezed his eyes shut, desperately trying to hold back tears.

Suddenly the quiet was broken by Mrs. Finch's soft humming. Amelda knew the tune; it was a carol...

"O come, all ye faithful..." she sang quietly, rocking Kenzie back and forth on her lap.

"Joyful and triumphant," Nina joined in, her hand firmly in Jim's.

"O come ye, o come ye to Bethlehem..." Jim was singing too, his hand on Amelda's shoulder.

"Come and behold Him, born the king of angels," Miruko fumbled a little with the words.

"O come let us adore him, o come let us adore him..."

And without even realizing it, Amelda was singing too. Suddenly it was not quite so cold in the bomb shelter, and suddenly it really was Christmas Eve.

The song ended but the moment did not. Amelda wrapped his arms around Miruko; they both missed their parents but were thankful for this new family they'd been given.

"Let's sing something else," Nina suggested.

"How 'bout Jingle Bells?" Jim grinned.

They sang on until finally the alarm sounded again, giving them the all-clear signal. Stiffly they made their way out of the shelter, and suddenly Miruko ran to the window...

"Look!" he cried gleefully, pointing outside. He grabbed Amelda by the arm and dragged him over to the window. "Look, big brother! It's snowing!"

The five children all threw on their coats and raced outside into the night, breaking the picturesque silence with happy shouts. "You got your wish!" Nina cried happily, taking Amelda's hand. He nodded and grinned, as Kenzie and Miruko both flopped onto their backs and started making snow angels.

They played outside for a long while, having snowball fights and making a snowman (he came out a little lopsided, but they named him 'Frosty' anyway). Suddenly Mrs. Finch appeared at the door, telling them if they didn't have a bite to eat and get into bed quickly, Santa would pass right over their house.

It had been a strange Christmas, but a surprisingly happy one all the same. It was Amelda's last white Christmas, and his last one with either Miruko or the Finches.

End flashback

Varon drove for a while, eventually stopping near the heart of downtown Domino. He parked his motorcycle and walked into the main plaza – the shops all claimed to carry the perfect gift and the large televisions mounted like billboards bombarded Varon with happy smiling faces and Christmas carols in English.

Many people walked along the busy streets; there were families with children either throwing temper tantrums or happily skipping down the sidewalk with their parents; there were couples holding hands and huddling for warmth in the brisk night air.

'Christmas is pretty depressing,' Varon thought glumly, 'when you have no one to spend it with.' It was self-pity and it was pathetic, really. But he just couldn't help but feel this acute emptiness inside him.

He knew Raphael and Amelda were his family now – he knew deep down that the three of them cared about each other more than they would admit. Still, he was different from the two of them and sometimes he felt as if he simply didn't fit in.

But it was always like this, he supposed.

He could remember a Christmas Eve much like this one, a Christmas Eve where he found himself feeling utterly abandoned and unloved...


When he was eight years old, Varon had a best friend named Aaron. They were always playing together, fooling around in lessons together, eating together... In the boys' bedroom, they even pushed their cots up next to each other. They would be best friends forever, they decided; though at the time they had no way of knowing it wouldn't last.

On the twentieth of every month, prospective parents would come and meet the children. It was the twentieth December, and all the children were looking their best. The girls wore their pretty dresses and the boys donned combed-back hair. Except for Varon – his hair was a bit too unmanageable.

There was one couple in particular that took an interest in Aaron. He had such pretty green eyes, the lady said. Such a strong-looking boy, added her husband. Varon could feel panic rising in his throat as he watched...

Well, he thought, trying to calm down, maybe they would adopt both of them. Wouldn't that be fun – he and Aaron as brothers, and in a real home for Christmas? He wriggled in excitement at the idea.

"Hi!" he said to the couple, scooting closer to Aaron.

"Oh, hello there," the mother said, blinking.

"My name's Varon!" he said, as the couple turned back to Aaron.

"Well, that's a nice name," the father said, a bit awkwardly. He turned back to Aaron. "Hey, buddy, how about a tour?"

"Okay!" Aaron said brightly, and led off the couple, giving Varon an offhand wave as he went.

Varon remained where he was, trying to ignore the stinging.

At the end of the day, there were three unoccupied beds in the boys' room. One had been Timothy's bed, and he wet the bed, so it wasn't that big of a loss. The second had been Brett's bed, and the third had been Aaron's. Varon's bed was still very much occupied.

He buried his face in his pillow that night and listened to the snoring of the other boys. Somehow, they seemed so, so far away. Varon lost himself in visions of his parents, his real parents.

They were spies, he decided. Master spies. But they'd gained so many enemies – his birth would've been a dangerous thing. He could've easily been used as his parents' weakness. So that was why they left him at this church, so he could be raised safely.

One day soon, his parents would whisk him away and they would have a lovely Christmas in his parents' private spy jet. (Because all spies got private jets, of course. It was one of the perks of the job.)

His parents didn't show up in the next few days, though. It was the evening of the twenty-fourth and Varon was practically going nuts.

He and the other children had been making crafts like crazy for most of the afternoon, and he'd been lonely without Aaron, and at the same time distracted by the thought of his parents.

Suddenly Mike, who was a few years older than Varon, approached. "What's that supposed to be?" he asked snidely, pointing at the snowflake Varon had been working on.

"It's a snowflake," Varon glowered, knowing full well Mike was goading him on.

"Ha, you call that a snowflake?"

Perhaps if Aaron had been there... Perhaps the two of them would've been able to say something clever and sarcastic enough to get the bully to go away. But instead, Varon looked down at the snowflake, and it was kind of lumpy to one side... He hung his head. "Go away, Mike," he mumbled.

Mike poked him in the shoulder. "Too bad your buddy Aaron isn't here to stick up for ya. You're really just a big baby, aren't you, Varon?"

By now, most of the other children were watching. They all knew of Varon's hot temper, and the bloody noses and stern talking-tos from Mother Mary that usually resulted.

"I am not a baby!" Varon said hotly.

"It's no wonder Aaron got adopted and you didn't," Mike said meanly. "Nobody'd want a baby like you!"

Before he knew it, Mike was on the ground while Varon straddled his waist, hitting him with his small fists as best he could. Most of the girls hid their faces and most of the boys watched excitedly, some of them cheering.

"Stop it! Stop this at once!" It was Mother Clarisse, one of the older nuns, and she pulled the boys off each other.

"He started it!" Mike wailed, pointing at Varon.

Mother Clarisse took Varon by the collar and marched him out of the room. "Goodness, Varon starts everything!" she said vehemently. She led him into the boys' room and sat him down on his bed. "I want you to stay here and think about what you've done," she said.

Varon opened his mouth. "But, Mike-"

"I do not want to hear it!" Mother Clarisse said, turning and shutting the door behind her.

Varon stood up and kicked the wall. "Owch!" he cried, falling back onto his bed holding his poor stubbed toes. He scowled and rubbed his eyes.

"Stupid Mike," he mumbled. "Stupid Mother Clarisse. Stupid Aaron!" He pulled his knees close to his chest and curled up into a ball. "Stupid Christmas..."

He stayed like that for a while, looking out the window, and suddenly something bright caught his eye. It was a wishing star.

Varon held his breath, squeezed his eyes shut, and wished as he'd never wished before.

'I wish my parents would come, I wish my parents would come, I wish my parents would come...'

Slowly he opened his eyes and sat tensely, waiting...

There was a knock at the front door, and Varon gasped, daring to believe...

"Oh, thank you," he heard one of the nuns saying. "Thank you for your kind donation." The door shut, and Varon breathed a sigh.

'They're not coming.' His eyes filled with tears.

'They're not coming. They're not coming.' He buried his head in his arms, beginning to sob.

That was how Mother Mary found him, still sniffling, in the now-dark room. "Oh my," she said softly, sitting on the bed next to the distraught boy. "Is something the matter?"

He shot out and clung to her. "Goodness," she said in a quiet voice, running a hand through his unruly hair. "My goodness."

It had been like this before – when Varon was much younger they had tried to find foster homes for him, and he always ended up right back here at the church. And he always went straight back to Mother Mary, upset about his foster family.

"I heard you were fighting again," Mother Mary said after a moment.

Varon nodded. "Mike said nobody'd wanna adopt me," he mumbled. Mary said nothing for a moment.

"I believe you are both at fault," she said. "Mike should not have said those things to you, and you should not have hurt him. You have to understand, Varon – Mike has been here as long as you have."

Varon nodded slowly. "Maybe he's right, anyway..."

"Don't be so silly," Mary said lightly. Then she turned serious. "Varon, I want you to understand this: you are not here by any fault of your own. Things just simply do not go as planned. I never would have imagined I would be here, serving God in this church, when I was younger. It was after my mother and father died and I was taken in here..."

Varon looked up at her with teary blue eyes. "You mean, you're...?"

"Yes." Mother Mary patted him on the back. "Are you read to go join the others? We're ready to decorate the Christmas tree."

Varon blinked. "I'm not still in trouble?"

She smiled. "No, my dear, not anymore. You forget, Varon – it is on Christmas that we remember we have been forgiven."

Varon couldn't help it. He smiled too.

"Hear that?" Mother Mary said suddenly. "It's carolers!"

Varon went to the window and watched them approach, carrying candles as they went. Mary stood next to him with her hand on his shoulder, and Varon felt alright...

End flashback

Raphael continued to look for Amelda and Varon; his search took him to the main plaza of downtown Domino...

Amelda knew he would have to go home sometime; but for now he continued to wander aimlessly, something leading him to the main plaza of downtown Domino...

Something told Varon to look up, and he did. There was Raphael coming towards him.

"There you are," the blond said gruffly. "You've been out for a while."

"Sorry," Varon shrugged uncomfortably.

"Is there room for another here?" came a voice behind them, and there was Amelda, his arms folded across his chest.

A while earlier, Varon would've said something like, "Of course not. You probably couldn't be in a worse mood, and I don't want you around" but he didn't. "Sure," he said suddenly.

They had both had their losses too, Varon reminded himself. As much as he wanted a merry Christmas, things like that took time.

"I'm sorry," he said, and he meant it.

The other two looked at him. "Sorry for what?" Amelda asked.

"For...for being so selfish," Varon mumbled. "I was being a bit of a Christmas nazi, I guess."

"There's nothing wrong with...well, trying to spread happiness," Raphael said, the gap between the three of them beginning to fill.

"I'm sorry, too," Amelda said, surprising them all. "I forgot that you both..." He trailed off, unsure of how to voice what they were all thinking.

Varon just grinned knowingly. "Whatever! I'm cold, let's get home!"

The other two had to smile as well. The three of them turned and started walking away, Varon in the middle. He threw an arm around each of their shoulders.

"Merry Christmas, Varon," Raphael shook his head at the brunette's antics, though he couldn't help but feel the magic of his childhood Christmases in the moment.

"Merry Christmas, Varon," Amelda added, secretly infinitely glad for this strange family the three of them made.

"Merry Christmas, you two!" Varon felt the loneliness inside him dissipate.

It was Christmas Eve, and all was right with the world. A distance away, out of sight from the bikers, three young children and a young woman smiled, watched the ex-Warriors heading home. They would continue to watch over Varon, Amelda, and Raphael. They would continue to lead the three of them back to each other when things went wrong.

Back at the house, Varon paused and looked up. "It's snowing!" he cried. "Alright, white Christmas!"

Amelda stood still in the yard for a moment, watching the snowflakes melt on his gloves. "Merry Christmas," he said quietly, to the spirits dancing in the wind.

Closing notes: Oh wow. I apologize for the WAFF overload at the end, folks.

So I was writing the part where Varon beats up Mike and I accidentally ended up typing "Stop it! Stop this at onc3!" and I had this little gigglefit imagining a l337-speaking nun.

Anyway, have a merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah, joyful Kwanzaa, or whatever it is you happen to celebrate, and God bless!