randomcat23 started this thought and my Flist on Livejournal ended it around midnight last night. D:

No Peeking.

The office was supposed to be closed on the 21st, but as always there was work to be done, reports to be filed and troops to be instructed; although how to explain the whole thing about the Gustavs sent dragging containers full of actual, you know, food, apart from rations to the front…Well, by the time the fifth platoon leader had called up, asking how to cook a chicken, he'd thrown his hands up in the air and had a good shout. With the mute button on of course so nobody could hear what he was saying. Of course it hadn't ended there. Eventually he managed to dig up at least one person from each bloody company who's idea of dinner didn't just have a can of cold spaghetti as it's highlight. Then things had gotten interesting; the cold-stores were open and he could practically smell the food being cooked in the open-air ovens.

This was precisely the reason why Prozen was now lying with his head under the desk, staring furiously at the bottom of said desk, caught between the dilemma of trying to take care of his troops and the zen-like mediations of what that '23a' in green nikko meant there. He cocked his head to the side, confused for a moment before taking in a badly drawn circle in the same ink. There was a moment of pondering about the person who had done it, obviously from the factory, before the commlink rung again and Prozen closed his eyes, made an unhappy face, and pulled himself up.

He almost hit his head as he did so, but the desk had become a common haunt in the heat of a barbaric Imperial summer. Christmas was an old tradition, the fir trees, the decorations, the massive meal, it didn't translate well to a climate that made you feel drunk and stupid in the middle of the day. The uniforms didn't help matters, and since nobody was here right now on this hot, humid and lonely Christmas Eve, Prozen had opted for lighter pants and a loose tee, the fans clicking at their fullest and the windows open to allow any breeze through.

The commlink wheezed at him, overheated as well. Tucking a limp strand of hair behind his ear and trying to look remotely in charge and responsible in a paint-splattered tee-shirt that was supposed to be retired after repainting his apartment, he reached for his water bottle and prepared for yet another mental battle with humanity. It'd be about cutlery this time. Or asking if the papers knew about this. Or if the taxpayers knew what they were getting (and could you please not tell them because we're liking the nosh). There'd already been words; and all he'd done was organise transport – those of the Empire happened to, you know, love their families. Many a mother or wife had supplied this little run after asking – loudly, and continually – why their so-and-so wasn't home yet.

Wasn't like it was even his fault, Prozen thought, sulkily. The emperor was determined to take that part of the coast. And for what? The beach? Fuck the beach.

"I leave the office in an hour and won't be back until the day after Boxing Day." He started, then stopped, realising that the screen looked oddly familiar. It wasn't a tent. And it wasn't the sky.

It was his ceiling.

"Hello?" He asked, confusedly.

The screen was finally pulled nauseatingly into focus as a clawed forepaw adjusted the tilt of the screen. In the background he could hear rustling, contented noises and saw the Christmas tree in the corner of the living room jiggle.

Prozen frowned.

"Hello?" He asked, a little quieter. Something scuttled, too fast to see, and finally a snout came into view, with the bright blue eyes of Shadow. He'd lived with her long enough to understand the bare basics of organoid even if Raven still involved himself in his trauma and ignored her. She was very agitated, bobbing her head and grunting quietly, a classic communication for him to come. Normally this would be involved with something to do with Raven's school, an incident with a zoid or team of mechanics, or if he'd absentmindedly left the stove on and something was boiling over. Or Raven, these days. Kid wanted to try cooking but kept forgetting what he was doing. Dinner was certainly not on the rotation list.

The organoid looked around furtively again and whined at him, bumping her snout so close to the screen it fuzzed out; the sensitive LCD screen not appreciating something so hard – or magnetic, considering you couldn't help but pet her snout every time you saw her – being pushed so close.

"Shadow, what's going on?" He breathed, amused and horrified at the same time. Was that a ribbon he saw being flung over the couch? The TV was on; but Shadow was in the way for him to see what it was…although the background 'music' was on a loop. It took him a moment to realise it was a videogame; and it was on pause.

The tree shook again, jingling.

"Oh fuck." He said lamely. Now he heard Raven's cry of…well, hopefully it was joy, the speakers weren't that good on either side, because of budget cuts, and the kid stood up, holding something high in the air. Prozen's heart sank, as not just had the boy DISCOVERED WHERE EVERYTHING WAS HIDDEN he'd decided to go through everything else as well. Then the tree fell over, in a comical, slow fashion, crashing into the TV set and shattering it's baubles.

Shadow whined, and pulled aside. Raven turned around, face aglow with pleasure, his hands still gripped around the combat gear he'd whined, pleaded and begged for during the last year (but no, there were standards and we had to work towards our rewards, so no, you can't have it now. Sorry.) and caught sight of the commscreen. The boy went almost as white as Prozen's natural skin-colour.

A frantic look around was resolved in a pointing finger. "SHADOW TOLD ME TO DO IT."


There was an 'argh!' as the boy dropped the box and the youth leapt over the sofa, almost crashing into the coffee-table there. The clunk of his shin was satisfying enough and Prozen had to stop himself from chuckling as the wail was drowned out with a door slam. And the faint sound of a chair being nudged under the door handle.

Shadow cautiously pulled herself back into the screen again, whining anxiously. Behind her the tree gave up the ghost and fell forward, the final tinkling being the baubles on the other side now meeting their fate. Both organoid and human shared an equal long suffering sigh.

That afternoon, not only did Prozen get out early and have to brave the crowds (and he was usually so organised) he got the quiet pleasure of fixing up the tree and letting his elderly and grumpy cat find it's inner kitten with the tinsel, while Raven cowered and mumbled apologies. Prozen only smiled, made dinner and watched in amazement as Raven actually offered to do the dishes for once.

As long as he got to keep what he got. Naturally.

Except with the wrapping. The next day you see, as Raven tried to wrestle the spatula from Shadow's tiny forepaws, he came to the conclusion it was probably easier just to be that little bit more patient. The wrapping was awful. And the guilt complex at having dented some things in his delight to get ahold of what was his in the face of those that the things belonged to was rather…unbearable.

"You still here?" Prozen asked, conversationally as he slapped a hand down on the paper plates before the breeze took them away. Around them his former platoon and their collective families were having a grand old time; it was one of those obligation military things that Raven disliked…yet liked, in some deep part of himself…so much. The second half of his punishment had been to help set-up and miss the first of the water fights. Which he normally won. Prozen nudged him with an elbow, but the boy remained doing what he was doing; and did the classic teenage thing and merely grunted in reply, opening up another esky to pull out some more prepared food. Besides. Big scary foster daddy had forgiven him the night before. Now it was just…

"Are we gonna get swamped soon?"

"Oh! Always. You were always in the water when food was called. Just hold onto me and whatever you do; don't get between Major Ralph and his burger, okay?"


"Can I have a zoid next year? A Zabrefang?"

"I don't know. Are you going to steal my satisfaction and find it before I give it to you?'

"Where the fuck are you going to hide it?"

"Language! There are small children present! And certainly not in the linen cupboard!"

"You're an idiot." Raven muttered, nudging Prozen back. "How the hell would you wrap it?"

Prozen shrugged after a moment. "Fucked if I know."