Um, yeah... A bit out of season. Written for the July Fireplace Writing Challenge.

Disclaimer: I don't own the libretto/plot for the Nutcracker.

"Masha, darling, we have a wedding to prepare for!" Maria's mother was exuberant. Her daughter, at seventeen, was finally being taken off the marriage market.

"Who's, Mama?" Maria was curious; her mother had always tried to get her married to men she didn't care for.

"Yours, child."

Maria was stunned. She was getting married? "To whom, Mama?"

"Peter Drossylmeyer." Mrs. Stahlbaum knew the young man was a good match for her daughter. He was young, handsome, and wealthy. Her daughter would have a fairy-tale wedding, after all.

"I don't believe I know him," Maria stuttered.

"He's been away, fighting in France." The older woman was ecstatic. Her daughter's husband was a soldier! Strong, masculine, everything a young woman should hope for. "You haven't seen him in three or four years. He's twenty now."

Maria sighed. Now she'd have to deal with an annoying, pompous husband. Joy.

Maria glared at her brother, Fritz. He was so happy; everyone adored him, loved him, treated him like a deity. He probably could be a Greek god. She watched someone give him a soft, adorable stuffed animal. Her brother cheered and ran off towards her, wanting to show off.

"Look, Masha! Look at what Uncle Drossylmeyer have me!" he crowed.

She grimaced. She hated acting cheerful; it was better knowing that she would be married and wouldn't have to deal with hin, however. "It's so cute! Did you say thank you?"

He shook his head and skipped off to thank Herr Drossylmeyer, a family friend. Her smiled dropped off her face instantly. I'm so tired of this already...

"Masha!" Her Uncle rushed over to her. "I couldn't get you a toy like your brother's. I found something else, though. I think you'll like it."

She rolled her eyes and scoffed mentally. Didn't want to waste money on me is what he means. Wonder what he got me.

Drossylmeyer handed her a wooden nutcracker. Maria smiled and thanked him before really looking at her present. It wasn't soft, or beautiful like her brother's teddy bear.

She watched Fritz glare at her. What is there to be jealous of? Maria thought as she watched her "uncle" present a life-size doll, which began to dance. She rolled her eyes as she saw the pointe shoes on the doll's feet, similar to the ones she and the other girls wore.

"Maria!" called one of the other girls, Annaliese, "dance with us!"

Masha set her nutcracker down and ran off to join the other teens in a joyful dance. As Maria carefully hopped on pointe, the others exchanged childish gossip.

"Did you hear?"

"Hear what?"

"Oh, you didn't know?"

Masha snorted as Annaliese smiled happily, while Bernadette looked curious. Annaliese liked being the center of attention, and now she had it. What an attention whore.

"Masha's brother, Fritz, likes Anita!"

"Speaking of your brother, Masha, what's he doing with your toy?" asked Bernadette, as she smoothed back her own blond hair.

Maria looked at her brother, who was pushing nuts into the Nutcracker's mouth. I wonder if he'll break it... "He's just feeding nuts to it; I don't really think anything is going to happen."

And, as fate would have it, there was a large cracking sound. Ms. D'arcey, who was from France and had been playing the piano most beautifully, stopped, glaring at Fritz for interrupting her music.

"I guess you were wrong." Annaliese had a smug smirk on her face, as if she knew Fritz better than Maria did. What a bitch.

"What did he do now?" mumbled Maria, exasperated. She wound her way through the crowd, and found her brother placing the broken toy on a chair.

"What did you do, Fritz?" Masha looked up and saw her mother, glancing at the boy before diverting her attention towards her daughter. "Masha! Go help your father entertain the guests!"

"But Mama, he broke my present!" Maria protested. Her mother gave her a stern glance and shooed her daughter away; the teen in question walked over to her father, the host, who promptly sent her to help Ms. D'arcey turn the pages of her music.

"Hello, Ms. D'arcey. Papa sent me here to help you," Maria explained once she had approached the woman. Ms. D'arcey smiled at Maria; the younger woman had always been quiet, if a bit temperamental. Although, with her family fretting over Fritz all the time, it was a bit expected for Masha to be unimportant in her family's eyes and feel something about it.

"Thank you, Masha. Look, there's your Uncle Drossylmeyer," the pianist pointed out, eager to be alone with the piano, which was her life. "He's got your nutcracker fixed and everything!"

Maria sighed unenthusiastically as she rushed over to her godfather. I will not let Fritz ruin my Christmas. Everyone loves him. I will not let the spoiled brat break my present and ruin my Christmas.

"Hey, Uncle Drossylmeyer!" Maria called out. He actually smiled at the suspicious girl and handed her the nutcracker, which had been put back into one piece.

"Thanks a bunch!" Masha gave a fake smile again before turning towards her gift. It looked really nice now, mended neatly and everything. I wonder if he bought two. Everyone knows that Fritz is a trouble maker, after all.

After the toy incident, the adults began to wrap up the party with a waltz, set to Tchaikovsky. Families left, bringing their children with them, which brought Maria much relief. She had no idea how she could continue acting nice. She didn't want to go to bed just yet, though.

"Papa, can I bring the nutcracker with me?" Maria turned her eyes, now wide and pleading, towards her father.

"No, Masha. He has to stay here, with the other toys."

"But Papa, I want to make sure he's alright!" This time, Maria refused to let her father win. "Can I stay here?"

Mr. Stahlbaum refused.

"Just let her stay here. She won't be able to play with toys once she's married." Mrs. Stahlbaum pestered her husband, as she wanted her eldest child to be quiet.

Maria grinned. Her mother had finally persuaded her father to allow her to sleep downstairs, with her toys. She curled up with the nutcracker on the floor, as she refused to have her mattress brought down, and knew that the floors were clean, anyways. She lay her head on a pillow and was asleep in minutes.

Maria was woken up by a loud "bang!" Her eyes widened as she took in her surroundings. She was in the parlor, on the floor, except everything was bigger. The nutcracker doll was nowhere to be found. She did, however, spot a large, ugly mouse near the Christmas tree. Somewhat amused and slightly frightened, she climbed into a high-backed chair, which would keep her from getting dirty. She watched the mice crawl around the room, before suddenly bowing down towards the floor. Lunatics. I hope Peter Drossylmeyer isn't like that. As another cocky, overly confident mouse revealed himself, decked in a nasty purple cape and a fake gold crown, Maria slapped herself.

Good to know I'm not going crazy, Maria thought as she rubbed her stinging cheek. The sound of skin hitting skin had alerted the mice to another presence, which resulted in some toys (mostly soldiers) picking themselves off the ground. Like real-life soldiers, they were able to march at the same time, giving off a neat appearance, in contrast to the mice.

And out walked the nutcracker from the doll castle, sword in hand. Silently, the man and the ugly beast-thing began to fight.

Maria was astounded. The whole thing was surreal. No shouting, so distractions, just pure fight. But it was interesting; Maria had wanted to learn fencing, but was told that it was too masculine for her, and had instead been taught how to embroider.

As their audience pondered such things, the Nutcracker and the Mouse King both fought to the death. Once the Mouse King blocked the Nutcracker's sword, he kicked him in the stomach, causing him to stumble. This gave the Mouse King an edge; he was able to defeat the Nutcracker. However, Maria had been shaken out of her reverie by the Nutcracker's pained shouts. As she saw the Mouse King prepare to kill the Nutcracker, Maria got off her chair and threw a hard pillow at the rodent monarch, knocking him over. The Nutcracker was able to get up and renew his attacks. And, as stories go, the Nutcracker won. Around them, toy soldiers were lined up on the floor, "dead," as were many mice. The defeated were dragged away to be mourned.

Suddenly, the Nutcracker stumbled and fell. Maria was worried and confused, and rushed over to him. She felt a force drawing her back and, unable to look, she turned away. When she felt a tap on her shoulder, she turned around and saw the Nutcracker. Instead of and large head and ugly face, he looked normal. Quite handsome, but still normal.

The Nutcracker was a hero. However, being the chivalrous gentleman that he was, he refused all credit, and instead thanked Maria, who was standing off to the side, for her help. She shrugged. When he promised to show her to the Land of Sweets, where she could meet the Sugar-Plum Fairy, she blinked, a bit confused. However, she agreed to go with him.

As they journeyed through the Land of Sweets, Maria was astounded by the sheer lack of people. Was this place populated? Then she noticed the dolls. So instead of people, they have dolls. How interesting. It was snowing in the Land of Sweets, which delighted its citizens. The Nutcracker carefully guided her through the cities, and into a large palace.

"This is my home," he told her. "Well, it was. Now that I am no longer stuck in the body of the nutcracker, I am free to go."

Maria's eyes widened. "Really? Where were you from?"

"I was from Germany; I was in France at the time, fighting, when my Uncle, Herr Drossylmeyer, got into trouble with the Rat King."

"But Herr Drossylmeyer is my papa's friend!"

"He's a magician. That's how he got into trouble."

By this time, the two had reached a large assembly room, and the Nutcracker stopped telling her about his pas. Many people, toys, lined the walls, awaiting the return of their Nutcracker Prince. When he entered with Maria, cheers flew through the room. He ignored the applause and instead marched towards the end, where the Sugar-Plum Fairy stood waiting. When they reached her, the Nutcracker bowed, and Maria followed, curtseying deeply.

The Sugar-Plum Fairy called over a young boy, who held a cushion in his hands. On top of it was a delicate pearl, attached to the necklace by a chain of diamonds. She carefully lifted the necklace and raised Maria up before she placed it around her neck.

"For helping our Nutcracker Prince," the fairy whispered. "He only needs a beautiful maiden..."

"Thank you," Maria muttered. "Not to be rude, but can I go home now? How long have I been here?"

"Just relax, and you'll go home..."

Maria woke up abruptly. It was a bit early for her to be up, to be sure, but she quietly hugged her toy to her chest and went upstairs, to her room. She curled up on her bed, waiting for a little while, until her nurse rushed into her room, shaking her hurriedly.

"Masha! Your fiancé is here!"

Mrs. Stahlbaum walked into the room, pulling her daughter out of bed and helping her into a chaste, white dress. Maria's nurse grabbed some pink ribbons and carefully arranged her charge's hair so that it looked very soft, very feminine.

"Mama, why must I have these pink ribbons?" Maria was confused. She had never liked pink.

"You do not like your ribbons, child? What will your fiancé say about this?" Mrs. Stahlbaum was enraged. Her daughter did not like her ribbons? What would Peter Drossylmeyer say when he learns about his fiancée's lack of femininity?

Maria sighed. Her mother was absurd. Peter would never say anything about her pink ribbons, if he was as much as a gentleman as her mother had told her. Of course, Mrs. Stahlbaum had refused to believe her daughter. After all, it was just a color. She was rushed out to meet her fiancé.

"Hello." She smiled shyly, only barely realizing that he looked identical to the Prince from her dreams. He, however, was able to realize that she was the one who had so kindly helped him.

"Hello, Maria." His voice was deep, helping her slowly remember that he was the same person as the Prince from her dream. Startled, she looked up at him again, her eyes wide. Her chuckled, playing with her hair.

"But why? How are you here?" Her voice was a harsh whisper, unable to really believe that he was here... She unconsciously clutched at her neck, and suddenly realized that she still had her necklace on.

"I'll tell you later, Masha," he murmured, before remarking loudly, "you have quite nice taste in ribbons."

He carefully studied her dark brown hair, which matched his own in color.

"Thank you. Mama picked the color."

Mrs. Stahlbaum, who had been passing through the parlor, scowled at her daughter.

"Excuse me, ma'am, but you did pick out the ribbon?" Peter now turned to address his fiancée's mother.

"I did. Are they not wonderful?" Maria's mother was quite proud of her taste in color. She knew that her daughter's fiancé would love the color; she beamed.

"Yes, but why in the world did you make it pink?"

Thank you Wendy, and Jeannie, and san.

-review whores-