A/N: I actually wrote this the first weekend of September. During a heat wave. It was a prompt from Eltea, which I won't reveal given the inherent spoiler-age. You'll know. ;) Enjoy! :D


Near loved Christmas. The lights, the snow, the wrapping paper—bright, shiny, sparkling things. The tree, with its sharp, tingly evergreen scent. (If a color had a smell, that was green's; there was no doubt about that.) The way people smiled at each other just a little more, the way the sidewalks were slippery with shining ice, the way the wind whispered sweetly against the windowpanes as carols warbled out of the dusty old radio…

And it certainly didn't hurt that Christmas was also the one time of year when no one looked at him funny if he spent all of his time thinking about, taking inventory of, and playing with toys.

All in all, it was probably his favorite time of year.

So no one should have been too surprised when he curled up under the Christmas tree with his best green and gold robot, nestled in among the glinting presents and the twinkling LED lights, tinsel sparking from among the needles above him, and fell quite contentedly asleep.

He certainly wasn't surprised. It was when he woke up that things started getting strange.

It was a chittering sound that roused him—and a scuttling. Little tiny feet with little tiny claws…

He sat up and looked around. A flash of white betrayed the ropy tail of an escaping mouse. Curiously, Near gathered himself to his feet, his socks offering little traction on the polished hardwood, and crept forward. Another mouse, squeaking insistently, darted between his feet, and, startled, he jumped, slipped, and caught himself awkwardly on his hands, the robot falling from the crook of his arm and skidding across the floor.

Near's pale eyes went very wide as a broad, unending stream of mice began to pour across the floor, rushing with tiny, skittering feet—from under the furniture they came, out the holes in the walls and countless crevices he hadn't even seen. Near groped for something to defend himself, something with which he could stave them off somehow, scare them away, but his fingers found nothing but the tassels of the tree skirt.

Then things started getting stranger still, because the Christmas tree—and the presents, and the rug, and everything else in the room—began to grow.

Near stared.

Perhaps he was beginning to shrink. Or perhaps the time-space continuum was rupturing in a very, very unusual manner. Or perhaps he was hallucinating from too much Green Smell.

…or perhaps there was a little magic left in the world after all.

Whatever the case, when he stopped gawping up at swelling gift boxes, stockings the size of sleeping bags, and pine needles like dark emerald swords, Near discovered that he was now mouse-sized.

And surrounded.

He swallowed.

A huge mouse, considerably bigger and tougher than any of its companions, moved forward to the front of their chattering ranks. It wore a sword-belt from which there curved an elegant saber, and a military-style hat dipped low over its face, beady black eyes glittering from within the shadow cast by the brim.

Near swallowed a little harder.

Then there was a blur of movement and green-and-gold-tinted chrome, and his best robot, life-sized and resplendent, stood between him and the Mouse King. Near gazed incredulously at his erstwhile plaything, awed by the shining armor and the creaking limbs and the faint hint of what looked like a kindly smile on the helmet that made its face.

And then there were other robots, too, Near didn't know where from—all in armor tinted different colors, all glimmering majestically in the fickle light of the towering Christmas tree, all drawing their own… swords?

Near scrambled out of the way just in time, and then the two armies met in an explosion of color, motion, and sound.

The clang of blades on blades was deafening, and the shrieks of the mice and the metallic grunts of the robots rang in Near's ears, quite despite the hands he'd pressed over them protectively. The battle raged on, mice falling, robots cracking, for minutes that felt like hours—

Near glimpsed his best robot locked in combat with a brawny brown mouse, its snout wrinkled by a vicious snarl. His robot was winning, and Near's heart leapt, but then he saw the Mouse King skulking up behind, sword poised to plunge through the joint of the neck and the shoulder—

Before Near knew what he was doing, he'd scrambled to his feet, dashed across the treacherous hardwood, and climbed up the Mouse King's back, grabbing fistfuls of coarse gray hair, to shove the pretentious hat down over the creepy dark eyes.

The King bellowed, reeling, and Near lost his grip and tumbled to the floor, where a white mouse whirled on him, pushing the point of its saber to his throat, but quite despite his own peril, he could only watch in terror tinged with hope as his best robot dispatched its previous opponent and proceeded to duel the formidable Mouse King valiantly. The two were perfectly matched, locked in combat, trading thrust for thrust and parry for parry, swords flashing like lightning, smashing together like thunder, and Near could see that, left to their own devices, they'd fight forever—or until one of them weakened enough for the other to seize the chance to strike.

But then a red and blue robot almost as wonderful as the leader raced forward and buried his sword in the Mouse King's side.

Loosing a scream that stabbed at the eardrum and shattered the very air, the King crumpled to the floor. The other mice froze, staring with blank black eyes at their fallen leader, for a long moment before scurrying forward to collect the corpse, bundling it in among their ranks, and disappearing into the woodwork once again.

Near climbed slowly to his feet. He opened his mouth, feeling that he had to say something to his saviors, but before he could speak, there was a soft hissing—no, a hundred soft hissings—soft hissings all around—

The robot who had felled the Mouse King gave a wordless cry. Burnished armor groaned almost like a thing alive, and then the plates swung outward, and a boy stumbled out of the robot shell.

It was Matt.

The other robots' respective armor did the same, gray and blue and brown plates creaking open, countless boys Near knew staggering free.

Then, with a sound like a sigh, Near's best robot's green and gold armor gave way.

Mello picked his way out of the casing, his emerald eyes bright in the dark, and grinned.

"What—?" Near managed breathlessly.

Mello winked. "Big fat curse," he explained. "But we've broken it now."

Just then, before Near could even think to articulate a reply, snowflakes the size of dinner plates swirled into the room on a delicate breeze that smelled like peppermint. They curled tightly around Mello and Near almost in the shape of a hurricane, insistently, as if demanding that the boys do something or go somewhere…

The edge of a snowflake pressed against the small of Near's back, and he hopped a step forward. Another followed suit, and he moved again; another, and again; until—

A boat shaped like a swan lay cradled by a placid silver river, bobbing almost imperceptibly. Near couldn't remember leaving the room with the Christmas tree, but somehow they must have—?

The snowflakes seemed to giggle.

Near looked to Mello. The blond boy shrugged, hopped into the boat, and offered Near a hand.

Tentatively, Near took it. Mello's palm was smooth, soft, and warm, and his grip was firm.

Near sat carefully in the center of the white bench in the prow, trying not to rock the boat and send them tumbling into the water. Mello, of course, was sprawled idly on the opposite bench, curiously watching the ethereal scenery that swathed the banks of the river on either side as they began to float gently along—spindly white trees draped daintily in snow, rolling hills similarly decked in drifts, frozen ponds and bushes of holly so delicate that they looked like they'd shatter at a touch.

It was dreadfully charming, and Near was enraptured, but he soon found himself shivering hard. Mello tore his eyes away from the fleeting patterns in the shimmering snowfall long enough to notice. He stretched an arm out, smiling.


Near hesitated long enough for another shudder to wrack his body, and then he stood carefully and crept across the boat, feeling it tip precariously beneath his feet. Cringing, cautiously, he perched next to Mello, not quite sure—

Mello wrapped both arms around him, pulling him close, and there was warmth in his world again.

Near had settled against Mello and was starting to get sleepy when at last the boat slowed to a stop. Mello leapt out and helped Near to follow, and the two surveyed the scene.

A sumptuous silver palace rose before them, vibrant stained glass peeking out at every window, the accents and embellishments stunning in pinks and blues and whites, the towers tapering up into the pale expanses of the winter sky.

"Do we go in?" Near asked, dubiously eyeing the glimmering drawbridge that spanned the frozen moat.

Mello started towards it. "Why not?"

They were met with a grand entrance hall, the vaulted ceiling soaring almost impossibly high above, strings of transparent crystals dangling to spark wildly in the multicolored light that seeped through the fragmented windowpanes. At the end of the hall, up a half-dozen steps of a slate gray stone, perched a throne constructed entirely of confections—candies and cakes and chocolates and all manner of sugary things, somehow solid enough to support weight. Upon this implausible throne, knees drawn up, feet bare, a candy cane protruding from the corner of his mouth, perched a dark-haired man in a white doublet.

It was, of course, L.

But with fluttering, silver-veined, gossamer wings.

"Good evening," he told them, though it looked more like afternoon, given the light shimmering down through the countless windows. "How was the trip?"

"Lovely," Near answered, his eyes like saucers. "What…?"

L smiled. "I," he explained, "am the Sugar Plum Fairy."

There was a long pause.

And then Mello laughed, heartily, the sound chiming merrily with the pendent crystals twirling in the air.

"You would be," he replied.

Even as L grinned, a silver door adorned with a curling snow-white filament design opened, admitting a tall, slender young man whose brown hair drifted into his eyes.

He was almost as pretty as Mello.

The newcomer sauntered over to L's throne, plucked the candy cane from L's mouth, and kissed him tenderly for a long moment.

Near blinked.

The young man drew back, reinserted the candy cane between L's lips, and glanced at them.

"Friends of yours?" he asked L.

"Wow," Mello remarked. "You really are a fairy."

L shrugged. "Look behind you," he advised.

Near and Mello turned. Two dozen tiny pixies with butterfly wings in teals, azures, and magentas swooped into the hall, each one hoisting a chocolate bar in its miniature arms.

"Hot damn!" Mello exclaimed eagerly. "This keeps getting better and better!"

Near found that he agreed.

Footsteps pattered insistently on the hardwood, and laughter burst out. Groggily Near opened his eyes.

"Merry Christmas, Near!" Mello sang. Warm hands shoved a crudely-wrapped package into his own, and warm lips planted a kiss on his cheek before Mello skipped away again, the jingle-bell necklace some idiot had seen fit to give him tinkling merrily.

He'd be shaking that thing next to people's ears until May at least.

Near sat up blearily, raising a hand to rub absently at the chocolate residue on his cheek. He examined the present in his hands. Mello really needed to learn how to wrap a gift, though that would probably mandate his acquiring some semblance of patience, which wasn't likely to happen in this lifetime.

Near peeled the shiny paper away and discovered a small green and gold robot. In place of a gun, it cradled a candy cane in its arms.

Near smiled. Merry Christmas, Mello, he thought.