By S. Faith, 2009
Rating: K / G (this may be a first for me)
Summary: Gotta keep up those holiday traditions!
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Notes: Happy holidays!
"Humour her, Mark. She's just a baby."
Mark, however, was not. He was ten and too old for little kids to be chasing him around to play, particularly little girls, in whose toys he had no interest.
"Don't give me that sour face, particularly not on Christmas Eve," continued his mother. "It'll freeze like that."
He sighed, and looked to where she was sitting with her doll, chewing on her thumb, then flashing a grin when she saw she had his attention.
"There aren't any other children her age here," his mum said softly.
"I'm not her age," Mark bristled.
"I know, I know," she said quickly. "Please. She's a good girl, really, as long as she's not bored. When she gets bored, she gets into trouble. You're so patient with her."
There was not getting out of it. "Yes, mum."
"Mm, thank you," she said, pecking a kiss into his hair. "You're the best."
He went and sat cross-legged on the floor beside her. She smiled again. "My dolly," she said, holding her doll up. "Father Christmas brought her early."
"She's very pretty," he said. "What's her name?"
"Rudolph," she answered.
"But… that's a girl," said Mark.
She pursed her lips. "Durr, I know. Oh. Wanna play?" she asked brightly.
"I'd rather not," he said.
"Mm, yeah," she said, looking thoughtful. "You're a boy."
He laughed a little. "Yes, that's true."
"I dunno what to do," she said, looking around herself. "I wanted some more cake but Mummy said no."
He doubted giving her more cake was a good idea.
"I know," he said, suddenly divinely inspired, in a matter of speaking. "Your mum has a lot of Christmas angels around the house. How about we try to count them all?"
"Um, okay!" She got to her feet, dolly still in tow. He did the same. "Can we start in the dining room?"
"And maybe you can get me some cake?"
He fought the urge to laugh, as that would only encourage her. "You just told me your Mummy said you couldn't have cake."
"Oh," she said sadly, her clever plan deftly thwarted.
"Was that the only reason you wanted to count the angels?"
She pulled her mouth to the side. "Yeah."
"That's too bad."
"It is," she said earnestly. "It's chocolate, and has raspberry sauce."
"No, I mean it's too bad because I was really looking forward to you counting with me. I'm not very good at spotting all of them, you see. I'm pretty sure you could find them better than I can."
She looked dubious.
"I left my specs at home," he said, which wasn't a lie, but he hardly needed them for anything but long distance.
"Oh," she said, puffing up with this newfound responsibility. "Well, come on!" She tugged on his hand. "We should get started. We have lots of rooms to cover."
The sitting room, in which the decorated Christmas tree resided, held fifteen angels all on its own. By the time they got around to the dining room, cake was all but forgotten, and the angel count was up to a respectable twenty-two. Her wide blue eyes scanned, or at least tried to scan, everything at once, but it was with a giggle that her eyes fixed on something directly over his head.
"What's so funny?"
"There's an angel right above you," she said, barely intelligible, "and she's holding something!"
Tipping his head back, he saw that a delicate white porcelain angel was holding in her arms a bough of mistletoe. He looked back down to her. "So what's that?"
"You know," she said, smiling broadly.
"I know," he said, "but I'm just checking that you do."
"It's Christmastoe," she said.
He tried not to laugh out loud. "Mistletoe," he corrected, then with a grin, asked, "How do you know about that?"
"Christmas. Toe," she insisted with vehemence.
"Okay," he said. "How do you know about Christmastoe?"
"I saw Mummy and Daddy—she giggled and told him he had to," she declared. "'Cause it's Christmas tradition."
He went to walk around her, but she pushed his leg. "No!" she said. "You have to."
"I have to what?"
She pursed her lips, then pointed over his head. "Christmastoe."
"Come on," he said, chuckling. "Angels."
She stomped her foot. "Christmastoe!" she yelled, tears in her eyes; she wasn't angry, though. She looked upset. Adults around them started to turn and look at her.
"Hey, hey, it's okay," he said, crouching down a little more to her height. "There's no need to cry." He leaned in and pecked her on the cheek. "There," he said. "All better."
Tradition thus satisfied, she calmed immediately, sniffing heartily. "I just want presents from Father Christmas," she burbled.
"What do you mean?" he asked.
"Well, if you're bad," she said with teary-eyed sincerity, "then he won't bring you presents."
He didn't quite understand the connection. "But this is mistle—er, Christmastoe."
"It's bad not to do traditions," she explained, speaking to him as if he were daft.
He bit down on his lower lip, tried hard not to laugh. "Well, now you don't have to worry," he said, getting to his feet. "I'm sorry I made you feel bad."
Spirits clearly restored, she beamed a smile up at him.
"Mark?" she asked as she took his hand again.
"Yes?" he responded as they went into the next room to continue counting angels.
"I think I'd feel better," she said, "if I had more cake."