Disclaimer: Characters and locations belong to Namco Bandai. As much as I wish they belonged to me...they don't and that makes me sad. So until the day I come up with a way to get Namco to give them to me, I can only play around with them in my story.

Spoilers: Up to the first visit to Yulia City.

This is a one shot based on the AU scenario in Reflections. It's the second of a few one shots meant to give a bit of extra insight and back story for Reflections, which I won't have a chance to cover in the main plot. It's my Christmas present to everyone who's been reading Reflections. Thank you so much to all of you and have a Merry Christmas!


"No!" The defiant voice echoed in the silent study.

"Luke, you have to put away your toys," the boy's blonde guardian pleaded.

"No!" Luke folded his arms and pouted. At his feet sat the assortment of colourful toys that had entertained him for the past few hours, but it was getting close to supper and it was time to get things put away. Luke, however, didn't seem to agree.

"Luke, you can't leave your toys lying around, you have to go put them away," Guy tried again, his patience quickly running thin.

"No!" Luke turned his head away.

"If you put your toys away, we'll go down to the kitchen and get you a cookie."

"No!"

Guy looked around the room. There weren't all that many toys lying around, and he was tempted to just put them away himself. But Luke had to learn to do things on his own, and Guy had to let him, or else the other presence in the room would give him an earful.

The other red head was seated in a chair across the room, engrossed in yet another book. Despite the six months that had passed since he had decided to remain at home, Asch still remained somewhat secluded from the rest of them. Guy remembered back when Luke fon Fabre had been one of the most eager and active kids he'd ever seen; calm, responsible when he had to be, but otherwise open and always energetic. Now Asch spent most of his time reading, book after book, usually about fomicry or some other overly complex subject. Luke was really the only one he seemed to spend any significant amount of time with.

"Luke, put your toys away," Asch said, not even looking up from his book.

"Okay!" Luke immediately agreed and happily began to gather his toys.

"Show off," Guy mumbled under his breath as Luke left the room. Asch grinned smugly and flipped the page.

Not ten seconds later, Luke came flying back into the room and grabbed Asch by the arm, yanking him out of the chair. Asch had to drop the book to keep from landing face first on the floor.

"Luke, what's the matter?" Asch asked as he shot a glare at Guy who was stifling his laughter in the background.

Luke didn't answer but he kept tugging at Asch's sleeve, his eyes alight with excitement as he eagerly pointed towards the doorway. Asch smiled as he picked up the book off the floor and set it aside.

"Alright, I'm coming," He replied, allowing his younger sibling to drag him from the room.

As soon as they exited the study, Asch realized what had caught Luke's sudden interest. Down the hall, several of the guards were busy manuevering something or another into the drawing room. "You want to go see what they're doing?" Asch asked with a smile. Luke eagerly nodded.

By the time they had made it to the drawing room, the guards had managed to get the tree into the corner and were busy setting it up. Just like every year, the long table and chairs had been moved into another room where they would stay until the holiday had passed. Near the fireplace, several couches had been set up, and the usual meeting room had been converted quite nicely into a living room; something their manor otherwise lacked for the other 12 months of the year.

Luke's eyes lit up and he excitedly circled the guards who were busy fixing the tree in place. The guards stopped for a moment once they realized he was there, worried they might trip over the bouncing ten year old. But Luke's energy reminded them of their own childhood excitement for the holidays, so, while being careful of the newest presence in the room, they eagerly went back to work.

"Tree!" Luke said pointing at the pine tree.

That's right…Asch realized as he watched Luke excitedly take in the happenings all around them. With everything that had happened this year, he had almost forgotten: this would be Luke's first Christmas.

"That's going to be our Christmas tree," Asch answered.

"Why?"

Asch smiled and ruffled Luke's hair. "You'll see."

---------

Asch woke the next morning to find Luke sitting in bed next to him. His face was plastered to the window and something outside held his undivided attention. Asch rubbed the sleep from his eyes and peaked out to see what was so interesting.

Everything was white. It must have snowed the night before, because the ground was covered. Snow clung to the trees and had settled onto the roof, painting the entire yard in brilliant shades of white and blue. It was quite the sight to behold.

"A-se! A-se!" Noticing he was awake, Luke tugged at Asch's sleeve as he pointed at the window. "Why?"

"It's snow silly." Asch answered. "Every year when winter comes around it snows."

"Noh!"

"That's right. It's snow." Asch repeated as Luke eagerly hoped down of the bed. "Whoa, easy there Luke," Asch caught his sibling before he had gotten outside. "You can't just go out in the snow like that. Snow is really cold. You'll get sick if you go out in your pyjamas." Luke's shoulders sagged in disappointment.

"Hey now, don't pout like that," Asch put his hands on his hips and Luke tried his best to hide his disappointment. "I didn't say we couldn't go outside, we just have to get ready first okay?" Luke nodded eagerly. "Okay! But let's go get some breakfast first, and then we'll see about playing in the snow."

After breakfast, Asch spent the majority of the morning searching for his old winter coat with an obedient Luke in tow. It took awhile, but eventually he managed to track one down. It was a bit small, but it fit well enough for Luke to use until he got his own. Asch also managed to track down his own jacket, two old pairs of boots, two sets of mittens, two scarves, a toque and a pair of earmuffs.

The only thing that took longer than tracking everything down, was showing Luke how to put it all on. But after many trials and errors, the younger sibling finally got it all figured out, and the two boys found themselves out in the courtyard.

Asch simply stood and watched as Luke excitedly ran in circles, crouching down to poke at the strange white confection that covered the ground.

"Don't eat it."

Luke froze with a clump of snow an inch from his open mouth. Asch smiled and walked over to his brother. "It looks pretty, but it's dirty, so you can't put it in your mouth." Luke just blinked curiously and stared at his older brother. Asch almost laughed out loud at the look Luke was giving him. Well if you don't eat it then what are you supposed to do with it?

"See look, you can do all kinds of things," Asch replied, gathering a bunch of snow in front of him. He picked it up and under Luke's unwavering gaze, packed it into a snowball. "You can make snowballs by packing it together like this." Luke watched in awe and attempted to make his own, only to have it fall apart in his hands.

"Here try it like this."

They spent the next couple hours making snowballs. Luke didn't have to be shown that once you made a snowball, it made for an excellent projectile, and Asch certainly wasn't going to back down from the challenge.

"Okay, okay, you win!" Asch managed through laughter as Luke dumped a pile of snow over his head, making the older sibling shiver as some got inside his jacket. Asch began to gather snow into a large snowball. Luke ran screaming and laughing over to the other end of the courtyard, preparing his defence, until he noticed Asch wasn't going to throw it. Instead he was rolling it in the snow.

Curious, Luke began to imitate Asch, rolling a snow ball in the snow, getting more and more excited as it grew in size. Asch grinned happily as he watched Luke stop every few steps to admire his snowball and then continue to push it along.

"I think that's big enough," Asch intervened once it had reached the height of Luke's chest and it was too heavy for him to push anymore. "Now watch this," Asch grabbed the snowball he had made, which was a bit smaller, and set it on top of Luke's.

Together, they made a third snowball, smaller than the first two, and set it on the very top. Luke looked in awe up at the tower of snow they had built.

"Now," Asch instructed, "we need a bunch of rocks and two sticks."

Luke excitedly followed his older brother around to the yard. The snow here was deeper and much more fun! You could fall and it didn't hurt, and it was soft! Luke jumped into the nearest snowdrift, bursting into giggles as the snow went flying everywhere.

Asch just rolled his eyes, but couldn't resist the smile that tugged at his lips. It had been years since he had just played in the snow. It was something that was too childish, not befitting a future ruler, but as he watched Luke, he began to wonder about that. For Luke in this moment, there was nothing wrong in the world. No hardships, no bitter feelings, just an endless white world and a pile of snow. Perhaps life could benefit from having more people like that.

"Okay Luke," Asch spoke up as he handed Luke two sticks to carry. "Let's head back to the courtyard. Don't run with those or you'll poke your eye out." Luke obediently walked beside his sibling as they made their way back to the courtyard.

Luke watched on as Asch fixed the rocks onto the strange pile of snow they had made. Two by the top, then four more below… it looked like a person! Luke happily passed the branches over to Asch who stuck them in the sides. Now he had arms to make snowballs with!

"There," Asch took a step back to admire their work, a gesture that Luke mimicked. Still standing next to Asch, Luke pointed up at the decorated pile of snow before them.

"Why?"

"It's a snowman," Asch replied with a chuckle, knowing full well what Luke meant. It was by far his favourite question, and it frustrated some of the servants to no end. Luke would always ask 'why?' It was his way of showing he wanted to know what something was, or wanted an explanation. But many of the servants didn't understand that, so they would try to explain the 'why'. Of course, that wasn't what Luke wanted to know, so he would simply ask again, leading them in hours of an endless cycle of explanations until they got frustrated enough and came to fetch him or Guy.

"Noh…meh…nim," Luke managed.

"No, asnowman," Asch repeated slowly, carefully enunciating each sound.

"Nomenim!" Luke proudly stated, earning him a defeated sigh from Asch.

"What's the matter, Luke?" The older sibling inquired as Luke walked up to the snowman and took his earmuffs off.

"Nohmenim cold," he said as he put the earmuffs on the snowman's head. Asch couldn't resist a smile at the considerateness his younger brother was showing, even if it was to a pile of snow. Luke unwrapped his scarf and carefully tied it around the snowman's neck. Before Luke could get that far, Asch pulled off his own mitts and carefully balanced them on the branches that made the snowman's arms.

"There, now the snowman won't be cold," Asch stated as he pulled off his toque, his voice breaking Luke out of the awe he had focused on the snowman before him. "But you will be," Asch pulled the toque down over Luke's head, playfully yanking it down over his eyes so he couldn't see. Luke laughed as he fought to pull the hat off, Asch holding it firmly over his brother's ears. "Seriously," Asch continued as he properly fixed the toque on Luke's head. "We don't want you to be getting sick, so make sure you leave your hat on, okay?"

Luke's answering hug caught Asch so off guard that he lost his balance and he found himself laying in the snow, Luke's arms still wrapped around him. After a moment, Luke rolled off of him and the two of them simply lay there in the snow, staring up at the now cloud-covered sky.

"Noh come from?" Luke quietly asked breaking the peaceful silence that had fallen over them.

"Just watch," Asch replied softly.

Several moments later, just as Asch had anticipated, snowflakes began to slowly drift down out of the heavens. Luke's eyes lit up. Every few seconds he would reach up and try to catch a snowflake, but they otherwise simply lay in silence, letting the snow gently fall around them until the air grew chillier and the snow had soaked through their jackets sending shivers up their spines.

"It's getting cold," Asch stood up and offered his hand, helping Luke up onto his feet. "Let's go back inside, okay? If you want, you can come play in the snow tomorrow too."

"Kay!" Luke replied as he followed Asch inside.

When the two boys walked back in the door, they were greeted by a group of maids. Both of them were sopping wet from head to toe and Luke dragged water halfway across the room before Guy managed to catch him and redirect him back towards the entrance where he could remove his dripping snowsuit.

Asch watched as Luke accepted a cup of hot chocolate from one of the maids. Unlike the steaming mug in his own hands, Luke's was only mildly warm, a fact made obvious simply by how quickly Luke was drinking it.

"Here, Master Luke," one of the maids was attempting to help him with his cup. "Let me help you with that."

"He's fine," Asch stated.

"But Master Asch…"

"He can handle it on his own. It's not hot enough for him to burn himself, right?"

"Well that's right, but…"

"Then he's fine on his own, leave him be," Asch finished and the maid backed off.

Asch took a small sip from his own mug as Luke finished his and held the cup out, his way of requesting some more. Several of the maids jumped at his request, and soon he had another warm cup in his hands. Once again, Asch had to convince the maids to back off and just let him drink his hot chocolate by himself.

While Luke's mental capacity may be closer to that of a two year old, he still had the body of a ten year old, and all the physical skills and dexterity that came with it. Luke could easily handle a cup, or practice with a toy sword, just like he could. But no one else seemed to understand that.

Luke was babied, which was justifiable to some extent, after all, he was only six months old; but in most cases, it was completely unnecessary. His mental capacity wasn't that limited. Though Luke still had difficulty grasping language, he was more than able to understand just about everything that was said to him. Asch suspected that Luke had a lot more to say than he was able to give voice to.

And he was always curious. Score, was he ever curious. He got into anything and everything, and was constantly asking questions about the world around him. He absorbed information like a sponge, and he had come a long way in those six months. In a few years, he'd easily be on par with any other twelve or thirteen year old.

But until then, Asch would just have to watch out for him as best as he could, and hopefully, Luke's world would be a much brighter place than his had become.

-----------

Time passed and Christmas drew ever closer. Each and everyday, Luke would get up, put on his jacket, boots, toque and mitts and head outside to play. Some days Asch would join him, others he would remain inside, tending to his studies or some other duties that required his attention. But whether Asch was out there or not, Luke would always build a snowman, and the yard had very quickly become full of them. There were no less than fifteen snowmen now if you counted the half dozen in the courtyard. But this morning was different.

"Luke?" Susanne's gentle voice broke the silence in the otherwise empty entrance. The boy in question froze halfway through pulling on his boot, looking curiously back up at his mother. "There you are. Would you stay inside today? There's something special we have to do instead."

Luke thought about it for awhile, staring at his half donned boot; but eventually obediently pulled it off and happily ran to Susanne's side.

"There we go," Susanne smiled and took Luke's hand.

"Why?" The redhead asked looking up at his mother.

Susanne sat down on one of the couches in the drawing room, and Luke hopped up on the couch and sat beside her. She gently placed her arm around him and pulled him closer. "You see that tree there?" She asked, pointing to the pine tree set up in the corner.

"Ismas tree." Luke replied excitedly.

"That's right," Susanne answered, somewhat surprised. "Well today we're going to decorate the Christmas tree. Christmas is in a few days and we can't have Christmas without decorations on the tree, now can we?" Luke eagerly shook his head.

"Why ismas?" Luke asked.

"Christmas is a special time of year that you spend with your family," Susanne explained gently. "It's a chance for everyone to do special things together, and to enjoy each other's company."

"A-se?" Luke looked up at Susanne.

"Yes, Asch too. Why don't you go get him while the others bring the decorations?"

"Kay!" Luke hopped down and took off in the direction of the library, a fact that brought a smile to Susanne's face. She didn't understand it, but no matter when she asked, Luke always knew where to find Asch, and was almost always right on the first try. Whether he was in his room, in the library or even in one of the studies, Luke always seemed to know where to go. It was a strange little talent of Luke's, but one that made her happy. It reassured her that there would always be someone there for Asch, no matter how lost he may find himself, and after all that he'd been through - no – after all that they had put him through this past year, it was something he still desperately needed.

While Luke was off fetching Asch, several of the maids walked in, bringing with them boxes of ornaments. One of them handed her a letter that she carefully opened and read over. She let out a sigh of disappointment and mild frustration. She would have to have a word with that man later, Asch wasn't going to like this at all.

Susanne looked up from the paper she was holding to see Luke practically hauling Asch into the room, the latter almost tripping over himself to keep up with his over-zealous sibling. It made her so happy that he had accepted Luke the way he had. She had been so very afraid that day, after everything that had happened, that Asch would refuse to accept the little boy who had almost become his replacement. But he hadn't, if anything, Luke had become more important to him, than any of them.

There were days when that made her sad; the days when she watched Asch sitting alone in a room reading, and wanted to cry. Cry for the lonely child he had become, for all the innocence that he had lost, and for how dark and cold his world was now, clouded over by a haze of nightmare-ish memories. Even though he had stayed home, there were days he seemed so far from her reach, it felt as if he hadn't.

"Did you need me for something, mother?" Asch asked, noticing her seated on the couch.

"I thought today would be a good day to decorate the Christmas tree. There are only four days left until Christmas," she pointed out, a soft smile gracing her face. "So why don't we put up all the ornaments?" She wouldn't let those feelings spoil their moment. All she could do now, was try and show him that he was as loved and as wanted as he ever was. She wanted to create a myriad of new memories, of happier memories, and hope that someday, these times would become the light that would brighten his world again.

"Tree!" Luke exclaimed and dragged Asch across the room before digging in one of the boxes that had been set on the floor. He shuffled through the assortment of ornaments before pulling out a large golden ball, giggling when he saw his reflection on the surface.

"A-se!" he said proudly, holding up the ball.

"That's a bulb," Susanne said, suppressing a chuckle. "And that's not Asch, that's your reflection. Here," she took the ball out of Luke's hand and showed him the ribbon tied in a loop at the top. "You go hang this on one of the branches of the Christmas tree." Luke looked curiously at the loop, still unsure of what to do with it.

"Wait," Asch interjected, "Where's father? We're supposed to decorate the tree as a family."

Susanne tightly clutched the note that was still in her hand. She knew he would ask. "Sweetheart," she began gently. "He won't be coming; he's got something very important to take care of."

"He always has something important to do!" Asch protested. "He does the same thing every year! We're supposed to decorate as a family! He never-" Asch's next point was cut short by Luke who took his hand and placed the golden bulb in it, and gently closed Asch's fingers around it.

"Family," Luke said, looking Asch straight in the eye and smiling softly.

Asch's anger fizzled out, Luke's simple statement draining all the disappointment and bitterness from him. Luke was right though, rather than be upset over who wasn't here; he should be enjoying the family that was here.

"You're right," Asch said as he walked over to the tree, followed quickly by Luke who stopped to fish another bulb out of one of the boxes. The young replica curiously watched as Asch took a branch, and hung the bulb on it, giving the plain green tree its first splash of colour. Seeing how it worked, Luke eagerly walked around the tree and placed his own bulb on a branch, standing back and admiring his work for a moment before excitedly running back to the boxes to grab another.

"Luke, Luke," after the first few minutes of decorating Susanne hurried over to the side of the tree Luke had been decorating. Curious, Asch peeked around to see what his younger sibling had been doing that had elicited their mother's concern, and when he saw, he couldn't help but laugh.

Luke had gotten the right idea about how to hang an ornament on the branch, but he had failed to realize that the ornaments had to go ondifferent branches. Mother was carefully supporting a single branch that otherwise would have sagged halfway to the ground under the weight of about a dozen ornaments, while removing the ornaments with a very confused Luke at her side.

But with Susanne's help, Luke eventually got the idea and the three of them happily spent the rest of the afternoon decorating the tree. When they had finally hung the last ornament, all three of them took a moment to enjoy the result of their efforts.

"I think there's only one thing left," Susanne stated, looking down at the two boys at her side.

"What's that?" Asch asked curiously. But instead of answer, she walked over to one of the maids that was at the back of the room, who immediately left on whatever errand his mother had requested of her.

Several moments later, several servants came in the room, each of them carrying several brightly wrapped packages. They set all the presents under the tree before leaving to get the rest. Asch watched Luke as he positively beamed. Asch had seen Luke in awe before, but he had never seen him quite this excited. His eyes were alight and positively dancing as more presents were placed under the tree.

"Those are presents," Asch answered, pre-empting the question he knew was going to come when his sibling had pointed to the bright parcels under the tree.

"Pesents!"

"No," Asch laughed. "Presents."

"Why pesents?" Luke asked.

"Well, a present is something you give to somebody that's important to you," Asch explained. It's something special that you give to them at Christmas time to say thank you for all the happy times that you've shared over the past year."

Luke picked up a box and examined it closely. "Why?"

"Well it's wrapped up so you don't know what's inside. That way it's a surprise when you open it up on Christmas morning." After Asch finished his explanation Luke very carefully set the present back down under the tree.

"Ismas."

"That's right, you'll find out what it is on Christmas."

------------

Asch sighed and set down the book he had been reading. There wasn't much point in trying to progress in his studies, his mind just wasn't willing to focus with Christmas Eve only one day away. Maybe he would spend the day with Luke, it might give him an idea what he could get for his younger sibling. There was a plethora of options; after all, it wasn't hard to find something Luke would like. But Asch wanted it to be something special.

Asch glanced out into the courtyard and was surprised when he didn't see Luke out in the snow. He went around to check the yard, but Luke wasn't there either. In fact, the snowman count was still the same as it had been the day before, so Luke hadn't been out all day. Just what was he up to?

Asch made his way up to Luke's room and found the door closed, an unusual event in itself, Luke hated having his door closed. But Luke was in there, he could tell by the random assortment of noises that were coming from within. After knocking a couple times, Asch opened the door and walked in.

Luke was sitting in the middle of the room, tangled in ribbon from head to toe. It was in his hair, around his arms, hanging off his clothes, and he had somehow managed to get a bow stuck to the top of his head. Pieces of tape covered the floor, walls and bedding and the floor was littered with pieces of mismatching paper.

On the floor in front of him, was the product of his efforts. A small box with several different pieces of wrapping paper messily taped together and tangled in ribbon with three bows and five name tags plastered on its surface. Asch covered his mouth to keep from bursting out into laughter, after all, it would be rude to laugh at Luke's efforts, especially when he had gone to such great lengths to do this on his own.

Luke looked up when Asch muffled his laugh. Noticing Asch's presence, he stood up, brushed off some of the ribbons and proceeded to push Asch out the door, slamming it shut once Asch was out.

Asch stood in the hall for a moment in shock at what had just happened. Then it hit him that Luke was probably trying to wrap his present when he had walked in like that. Luke was putting in all that effort for him, and was even trying to figure out how to wrap it on his own. Well, maybe this was a good chance for him to do the same. He was determined now more than ever to find something special for Luke for Christmas.

-----------

It was Christmas Eve when Asch came across the scene in the drawing room. The first thing Asch noticed was Luke crying. Sitting on the couch was their mother, and in her arms Luke was sobbing. Over by the tree, several of the maids were cleaning up a pile of water at the center of which was a very familiar box covered in mismatched wrapping paper.

"What happened?" Asch asked worriedly, heading straight for Luke and their mother.

"I'm not sure," Susanne admitted. "Luke, what's the matter?"

Without even looking up from where he had his face buried in his mother's embrace, Luke simply pointed to the present he had wrapped the previous day. Asch curiously walked over and picked up the soaked box and opened it up.

"Nomenim… gone," Luke managed between sobs.

"Oh dear," Susanne realized, "he tried to wrap up a snowman for you."

Asch didn't know whether to smile at the thought behind the gift, or to join his brother in tears. Sure enough, in the box Asch had picked up there were ten small pebbles and two little twigs, the sole remnants of the gift Luke had tried to give him.

"Oh sweetie," Susanne gently ran her fingers through Luke's hair trying to calm him down. "The snowman isn't gone." Luke stopped sobbing and looked up at her curiously, tears still running down his cheeks. "He just went back outside," she explained.

"Yeah," Asch agreed, sitting on the couch beside Luke. He still held Luke's present tenderly in his arms and was staring into the box as he spoke. "Snowman can't live inside, they would be lonely."

"Lonely?" Luke asked, a hint of a sob still in his voice.

"That's right," Susanne said as she gently held Luke close to her, wiping the tears from his eyes. "The snowman would miss all their friends the snowflakes, so he went back outside." Luke simply nodded as he allowed himself to sink into his mother's arms. "Don't worry," she whispered, "we'll get you something for Asch together, okay?" Luke nodded.

Susanne motioned for Asch to take the place next to her, and he quietly did so, accepting her caress when she wrapped her other arm around him. Buried in her arms, he was happy. He felt safe and warm, and there was nothing in this world he would trade for this moment in time. He had everything he had ever wanted right here.

Asch had his family.

-------------

The sun hadn't even broken the horizon when a faint creak woke Asch up. Asch blinked groggily and then rolled over to glance out the window. The sun wasn't even up yet, but a second creak kept Asch from going back to sleep. Straining his ears, he could just barely hear the soft sound of footsteps outside his door. He lay in silence, now fully awake and alert, the sound of his own racing heart deafening him.

A third creak as his door opened a crack; Asch pulled the blankets up over his head, curling up under them. He lay there for minutes that felt like hours, just hoping that they would go away, that they would leave him be. He didn't want to lose everyone again!

"A-se?" the soft whisper reached Asch's ears, shattering the fear that had gotten hold of him. Then the sound of pacing outside his door returned. It was just Luke. Asch let out a huge sigh, not realizing his had been holding his breath. He silently cursed the fear that still lingered. It seemed like it would still be awhile before he could put his past behind him.

The door creaked open a fourth time. This time Asch saw Luke poke his head in the room. "A-se?" he whispered softly, hoping to find his older brother awake, but at the same time not wanting to wake him up.

"I'm awake," Asch whispered back. "You can come in silly." Luke obediently came all the way in the room and quietly closed the door behind him. "What are you doing up so early?"

"Chismas!" Luke explained still keeping his voice down.

"Christmas," Asch enunciated with a smile trying to suppress his own growing excitement. "But it's still way too early to open presents, you have to wait until everyone else is awake."

Luke put on a bit of a pout and his shoulders sagged in disappointment. But he got over it quickly and accepted Asch's invitation to crawl into bed next to him. The two boys lay in Asch's bed and whispered back and forth until long after the sun had risen. Asch had told Luke a variety of stories about previous Christmas, about misadventures he had with Natalia when he was younger, all sorts of things. Luke lay there, absorbing every word and offering his commentary wherever he was able.

Asch was about to begin another story when Guy poked his head in the door. "Are you awake?" he asked quietly. Asch and Luke both sat up, and Asch snickered as Guy was taken aback by their similarity yet again. That and he probably hadn't been expecting to find Luke here.

Luke just about flew out of bed and bolted past Guy who stood stunned at the flash of red that had just passed him. Asch chuckled and followed his brother to the drawing room with Guy in tow.

Much to Asch's disappointment, but not really to his surprise, their father was nowhere to be found. But on one of the couches sat their mother, with a couple of the maids nearby serving her some tea, and Luke was already here and accepting a cup of not-so-hot chocolate from one of them, so he wouldn't let it get to him. It was Christmas, and he was spending it with everyone. That was what mattered.

Luke didn't have to be shown how to open presents, and he took a great deal of pleasure in opening them. The only thing he seemed to enjoy more than opening them, was playing with what he found inside. Among his favourites was a small wooden puzzle that Guy had made for him. It was a good half hour and several hugs for Guy later before they could get him to continue opening presents.

Asch found he was having almost as much fun as Luke opening his own gifts. Something about Luke's excitement had leaked into everyone else in the room, and it was certainly the happiest Christmas Asch could remember.

Finally there were only two presents left.

Asch peaked at them. One was the present he had wrapped for Luke, but the other one was for him, and it was from Luke. It was slightly better wrapped than Luke's first attempt, and he had probably gotten some help this time around. Asch gently shook it, but couldn't figure out what was inside.

Asch opened the box and pulled out a huge handmade scarf. With it in the box was a matching set of mittens and a toque. Asch smiled at Luke who came over, took the scarf from Asch and carefully tied it around his neck.

"Play in noh!" Luke said tugging on Asch's arm.

"Not just yet," Asch smiled. "There's still one present left"

Luke pointed at himself questioningly. "That's right," Asch nodded. "It's for you."

Luke sat back down and curiously picked up the last box. "A-se?"

"Yep, that one's from me," Asch nodded as Luke tore away at the paper and opened the box.

Luke held the object before him in awe. The glass globe surrounded two snowmen that stood in the middle, wearing matching scarves and opposite coloured hats. Luke shook the globe.

"Noh!" Luke said excitedly, his eyes never leaving the present in his hand.

"It's a snow globe," Asch explained. "See, look here." Asch gently took the globe out of Luke's hands and flipped it upside down. Asch showed Luke how to wind it up, then he flipped it over again and passed it back to his sibling.

The soft chime of the snow globe as it played its song put a smile on everyone's face. Luke lit up, his eyes dancing in amazement at the present Asch had gotten him. The next thing Asch knew, Luke was in his arms, and he could feel warm tears dripping down Luke's face. Was he really that happy? Asch gently held Luke in return. He really was, Asch realized as he heard Luke stifle a sob and try to pull himself together, all the while not leaving his sibling's embrace.

Asch held Luke closer. No matter what may come, he knew he would always have this moment, and he would always have his family. The past may not be completely gone, but he still had the future, and it would be a bright one.

"Merry Christmas," Luke finally said, bringing a smile to Asch's face.

"Merry Christmas."