25 December

Today was Christmas, and we went to a party with people that Mr Nick and Mystic Maya know, like Mr Ehji-werth, Mrs Franziska, Mr. Larry, Mr Scruffy Detective and even Mr Powers.

There were a lot of beautiful decorations, even mistletoe. To ensure Mystic Maya and Mr Nick's future happiness, I brought and hung a lot more mistletoe...

"Look above you, Mr Nick," piped up Pearl.

"Uh? What?" He gazed above. "I don't see anything…"

"Look at the plants!"

"Oh. Yeah, decorations. Aren't they nice, Pearls. I guess they're maybe more elaborate than at Kurain…"

"What KIND of decorations, Mr Nick?" Phoenix is mystified to why Pearl is so impatient.

"Oh. Um, that's a 'Holly', and that's a 'Tinsel', and that's a… a flower, and that's a…"

"Mistletoe!" chimes in Maya.

"and that's a 'streamer'.."

"People under the mistletoe are supposed to *kiss*, Mr Nick, and Mystic Maya is who is under the mistletoe with you." Her eyes fixated his pointedly. Maya also directed an expectant gaze.

"No, we don't have to…"

"Yeah, pal! It's a tradition," broke in Gumshoe. "(Now I was kinda hoping Maggey might show up here, but she didn't…)"

"What? Nobody really does or believes that stuff. Right, Maya?"

"Well, Nick, it's what always happens on TV!"

"WHAT??? No!" proclaimed Phoenix with great finality.

"*Mr* Nick," chided Pearl severely, "you are insulting Mystic Maya's honour by being too shy to kiss her in public."

"I'm not too shy, I'm…"

Phoenix flinched as the assault of slaps came. His eyes then flitted in confusion to the source of a sudden, unexpected reprieve, Maya.

"Stop it Pearly," she directed as she dragged her away from him. "Nick doesn't want to kiss me." Her eyes wouldn't meet his.

"But… but… Mystic Mm-ayaaaa!" Pearl burst into tears.

All the guests turned to look at the ugly scene. Gumshoe made flailing attempts to cheer up Pearl, but all was futile.

Phoenix shuffled uneasily. "Oh, okay," he muttered to Maya. "I guess we should just try to shut Pearls up"

Maya had never kissed anybody before, and she was somewhat excited. For someone who was clearly only doing this to 'shut Pearls up' she was struck by how strangely nervous Nick suddenly seemed.

She also realized she had no idea how to kiss anybody, and just hoped that Nick knew better. He was the type of loser who practically screamed 'I have never had a girlfriend', but supposedly he'd dated Iris, and somehow got through law school. Maybe he'd studied up on kissing techniques too.

But as their lips smushed together at a weird angle, she was left with the uncanny sense that this one was a fail. Wasn't kissing supposed to be, well, *better*?

The room had fallen silent to stare at the couple, and Maya sensed they were now not staring in a good way.

"T..there Pearls," Phoenix muttered to the small medium, who had indeed been adequately silenced. He retreated to the drinks table.

Maya did not meet his gaze. She retreated to the food table, then subsequently outside.

Phoenix had the uneasy sense he'd committed a faux pas. Also that Maya was avoiding him, so he did not seek her out.

Thus it was a while before he noted her absence.

He searched all the likely locales, and then the unlikely ones, but to no success. Had she gone home? He felt bad. It was hard to imagine she'd gone outside in this weather, but maybe…


"Maya? Hey…"

"Oh. Hi, Nick." Her smile and greeting was genuine, but the magnitude of cheer just a little *too* bright.

"What's up?"

"Nothing. I'm just watching the snow."

Phoenix sensed he *did* know what she might be upset about.

He sank down beside her. "I…I'm sorry."

"What? Nick, you have nothing to be sorry over. At least, I don't *think*…" Her warmth is now fully authentic. They sat in silence for a few minutes. Flakes of snow continued to sputter from the sky.

"You wear this year round? Aren't you cold?"

"Freezing makes it easier to communicate with the spirit world," Maya explained.

"You're not contacting ghosts now, I hope." He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her to him.

"Come back inside now, okay? There's probably more food, and.. and.."

"Yeah, okay," grinned Maya, leaning into him for some moments until they detached themselves.

The pair shake the snow off themselves and step inside. There's still large quantities of mistletoe on the ceiling decorations. Actually, there appears to be far more of it than previously. The sound of their return has also attracted the attention of many of the guests.

"Careful, Nick, there's mistletoe, like, everywhere. I guess we could just ignore it…"

They collude in uneasy hushed whispers.

"W..why is everyone staring at us?"

"I don't know! Maybe because last time sucked? W..we don't want them to think we're bad kissers."

"Y..yeah! Especially not Larry."

"Let's try again! J-just to, you know, prove them wrong!"


Eyes dart awkwardly, but they soon cover this with the methodical care to align themselves properly this time.

The connection is strange, compelling. Their minds flail as they find themselves leaning into the experience. After a few moments they break apart, but it's somehow slightly dizzying.

They stood for a moment in minor shock.

"Better. Maybe if we.."

"Yeah, better keep… practicing."

"We don't want to.. *embarrass* ourselves…"

The moment their lips meet, they forget 'technique'. Their arms instinctively reach out and draw each other closer in a tender embrace. Their eyes close. They have no wish or need to break for air.

Everyone is now staring, and for a very different reason.

Phoenix and Maya have ceased to notice.



Hmm, sorry for the weird perspective switch, but I couldn't cheat BlackWiddow out of her Christmas romance could I? Time pressure ORZ