A/N- I'm a bit nervous about this one, but hopefully you guys will like it. Anyway, in honor of the holidays, this one is Christmas-themed. A special thank you goes to Franzise Deauxnim at the Court-Records forum for proofreading this for me. Enjoy and please let me know what you think.

Prompt: Time

Time was always something that seemed to be in short supply. As Phoenix helped Trucy and Iris decorate their Christmas tree, he couldn't help but feel a tinge of regret knowing that this moment could never last forever.

"Daddy! Daddy!" his ten-year old daughter cried excitedly, tugging on the sleeve of his sweatshirt to get his attention. She had insisted on wearing her pink magician's outfit that night despite her father's protests, telling him that she wanted to show off some of her new tricks and that a proper magician always needed to wear appropriate clothes if he or she was going to perform.

Surprised, he quickly forced his current train of thought from his mind and focused his attention on Trucy. Kneeling down beside her, he asked "What is it, Truc?"

"Look what I found. Isn't it pretty!" Trucy said, her eyes shining as she pulled a beautiful silver star from one of the boxes of old Christmas decorations. Although a light coat of dust covered the star, it was still possible to make out the lovely decorations adorning it. "Can we use it for the top of the tree?

"I don't see why not," Phoenix smiled at her as he inspected the old star and grabbed a cloth to clean it. The metal was in good shape even after all the years and it didn't take him long to make it shine again. With a quick glance over at Iris, who was dressed in a pretty black skirt, white shirt, and was hanging ornaments from another box on the tree, he quickly added, "As long as that's okay with Iris at least. I'll admit that I hadn't really planned for what we would put at the top of the tree." And yet another regret crossed his mind. He'd intended to buy all new Christmas decorations for this year, but he just hadn't been able to afford them. It had been a tough year all around and he had wanted to make this Christmas a particularly special one, but... well some things just don't work out the way you plan.

Iris's lyrical laugh interrupted his thoughts and brought him back to the present. "Of course I don't have a problem with that at all. In fact, I think that's a wonderful idea." Smiling brightly at Trucy, she asked, "Would you like to do the honors, sweetie? As long as it's okay with your Daddy, I think that it's only fitting that you put it on the tree."

Trucy instantly jumped to her feet, her face alight with excitement. Clapping her hands together happily, she said, "Can I, Daddy? Please!"

Phoenix put his hand over his mouth, to muffle his laughter, and pretended to be deep in thought. "Well..."

"Please, please, please, please!" Trucy begged, jumping up and down.

"I don't know, Truc..." Phoenix teased, his eyes twinkling as he spoke. There was never any doubt that he was going to let her put the star on the tree. He had never been very good at telling Trucy "no" and he couldn't see any harm in this as long as he spotted her while she did it. "Well... I suppose that's okay. I have to help though so that I know that you're safe."

"Okay! Thank you, Daddy!" Trucy cried, giving him a quick hug before rushing over to grab a nearby chair. With Phoenix watching her carefully, she placed the star right at the very top of the Christmas tree and then climbed down off the chair with a satisfied smile.

Suddenly, a beeping noise began coming from the kitchen which sent Iris running into the other room. "Cookies are done," she called from the kitchen after a couple moments. "Why don't you two come in and help me decorate them?"

With an ecstatic cry, Trucy bolted into the kitchen with Phoenix ambling in at a more controlled pace, pausing for a moment to kiss Iris's cheek before sitting down himself. Her face flushed lightly as he kissed her, her eyes shining happily.

As the three sat down at the kitchen table to decorate the cookies, Trucy asked, "So when are Aunt Maya and Pearl getting here?I thought they were supposed to be here already!"

"Patience, sweetie," Iris smiled at the young girl. "I spoke to Maya earlier today and she told me that they were both looking forward to spending Christmas all together. I believe her exact words were something like 'We'll be there even if we have to walk. Pearly agrees.'" A concerned look crossed her face for a moment. "She was kidding about having to walk, right? I mean... she didn't really mean..."

"I'm positive that Maya was joking," Phoenix reassured her quickly. "I checked the train schedule and the trains are still running. They won't be able to make it back to Kurain tonight, but I think that they wanted to spend the night anyway."

"Good," Iris responded with a relieved smile. "I-"

The doorbell rang suddenly, interrupting the rest of what Iris intended to say. Excusing himself, Phoenix made his way over to the door. As he opened it, he heard a familiar cry of "Nick!" before being wrapped in a hug.

"Hi, Maya," Phoenix laughed as he returned the hug quickly before untangling himself from his former assistant's sisterly embrace. "I'm glad to see that you made it in one piece. Trucy was actually just asking about you and Pearls."

At the mention of her name, Pearl came forward a bit, still standing a step behind her cousin. Like Maya, she was dressed in her normal outfit. "Hi, Mr. Nick."

"Hello, Pearls," Phoenix smiled, stepping forward to give her a quick hug as well. "You look well." As he straightened up again, he suggested. "Why don't you two come inside?"

"Right," Maya said cheerfully, grabbing the bag of presents that had been sitting by her feet and leading the way inside. "Trucy! Iris! Where are you?"

"Aunt Maya! Pearl!" Trucy cried as she ran to the door to greet them with Iris trailing. "I'm so glad to see you."

"I'm glad to see you too," Maya said with a laugh, capturing the young magician in a hug. At the same time, Pearl darted over to Iris to embrace her half-sister. "What have you three been up to?"

"Decorating the Christmas cookies that Mommy made," Trucy answered happily, grabbing the newcomers' hands and leading them towards the kitchen. "You guys can help now."

Glancing over at her older cousin, Maya smiled teasingly, "I hope they're tasty, Iris. I'll never forgive you if they aren't."

Iris frowned at that and stuttered, the worry clear in her voice, "I-I certainly tried. I hope that t-their okay."

Maya had forgotten that Iris could be a bit more sensitive to teasing than Phoenix or Trucy. Feeling a bit guilty for upsetting her cousin, she quickly responded, "Knowing you, I'm positive that they'll be great. Particularly if we have them before our burgers." This last line was said with a mischievous glint in her eyes.

"Dessert is for after dinner," Phoenix corrected, with mock-sternness. "And while we're on the subject of burgers, I still can't figure out how you managed to convince me to make us that for Christmas dinner."

"Because hamburgers are the best food," Maya answered, sticking out her tongue playfully as she sat down at the kitchen table where Trucy and Pearl had already started working on the cookies again. Grabbing a tube of frosting, she added, "Alright, let's get to work. I'll bet we can make the prettiest Christmas cookies ever if we all set out minds to it."

Both Trucy and Pearl nodded at that and set to work with determination.

Phoenix laughed as he watched the girls work, the happiness he felt pushing away all those earlier regrets that he'd had as he walked up behind Iris and wrapped his arms around her. The laughter and joy that filled their home told him that this Christmas was as special as he could ever have hoped. And, he mused silently, even if this moment wouldn't last forever, he would enjoy the time they did have.