Disclaimer: I only own Koxra, Nikki, Pocket and anyone in or affiliated with the Circle. And I don't own any of the Christmas Carols sung in this chapter.

Cyril had almost thrown his pipe in a fit of rage before he realized that that wouldn't be a good idea. How else was he to calm himself if he couldn't smoke it? Instead, he sat it on the table and eased himself into an armchair, trying to process what Cria had just told him. Rioris was gone. That thought made his heart ache, no matter how black he was told it was.

The new recruit, Nina had said she suspected Rioris was performing experiments on a captive Nobody. How could that be? She had given him her word that she would bring him any Nobodies she managed to catch in her territory. However, judging by the few legible notes that had been found, she had been putting data together. Most likely, it had been meant for him. Had she been thinking what she was doing would help him with his research?

Regardless of what she had been thinking, she was gone. Cria had said she suspected Nobodies had killed her. Now there was one more reason for him to pursue his experiments. Not only would it allow him to study them, but he would be getting revenge for Rioris.

"Hey, Roxas," said Xion as she stepped out of a portal. "Looks like we both got done at around the same time."

"Uh, yeah," said Roxas. "Isn't that a Christmas tree in the corner?"

"Oh, yeah, I wonder who brought it in," said Xion. "And someone hung red and green paper chains from the ceiling."

"That was probably Xigbar," said Roxas.

"True," said Xion. "I wonder where Axel and Demyx are. Are they even back yet?"

"No clue," said Roxas. "The decorating seems like something Demyx would do. Maybe he convinced Xigbar to help him."

"Yeah, maybe," said Xion. "Still, where would Axel be?" Roxas shrugged.

"Maybe he went to see Koxra?"

"Could be," said Xion. "I think something's going on with those two."

"What do you mean," asked Roxas.

"They're going places by themselves and it seems like they're friendlier with each other," said Xion. "Plus, I saw them kissing in the hall the other day."

"So you think they're doing that dating thing Axel told us about," asked Roxas.

"Why else would they be kissing," asked Xion.

"You have a point there," said Roxas. "It's a good thing Axel already told us about that stuff or we wouldn't know what was going on." Xion laughed.

"And here I didn't think there would be a time when we would understand anything like this. I'm amazed Axel didn't lose his patience."

"Probably because he caught me reading something that he called 'smut'," said Roxas. "He still never told me what that meant. He only told me that I shouldn't be reading it."

"You'd think he'd explain what it was if he wanted you to avoid it," said Xion. Roxas shrugged.

"Maybe he just doesn't want me getting bad ideas. I'll try asking him later."

"Good idea," said Xion. "So, do you want to go and see Xemnas first or should I?"

"Why don't we just go together," Roxas suggested. Xion agreed and they headed out of the Grey Area. Roxas hadn't realized she'd stopped until she tugged on his sleeve.

"What do you think that is?" He followed her gaze to the top of the doorway and saw what looked like part of a plant hanging from the top of the door frame. It appeared to be a clump of green leaves with what looked like red berries in between them.

"No idea," said Roxas. "Why would anyone hang a plant up there?" There was a nearby snort.

"I thought Axel would've told you about that with Christmas coming up."

"Or, you could tell us instead of laughing, Demyx," Roxas countered. Demyx smirked.

"Well, that, my Christmas tradition challenged friends, is known as mistletoe." Xion blinked.

"And what's it for? Just to look pretty?"

"When two people walk under one at the same time, they're supposed to kiss," said Demyx. Roxas and Xion exchanged glances.

"Why," Xion asked.

"Don't know," said Demyx. "It's just a tradition. I'm not sure who came up with it, but I guess I can let you guys off the hook this time since you didn't know about it." He turned and headed back down the hallway. "But if you want to do it anyway, you can. I'm not going to spy on you." Roxas looked after the Nocturne as he rounded the corner.

"It's almost as if he expects us to kiss, isn't it?" He turned his attention back to Xion when he didn't get a response. He flinched as he realized she was inches away from him. "Xion, what are you doing?" Before he had time to think, she pulled him into a kiss. As soon as his brain snapped out of shock, he returned the kiss. After a while, they broke apart and Xion bowed her head.

"I'm sorry, Roxas. I should've asked first." Roxas put his hands on her shoulders.

"I wasn't expecting it, but I'm not complaining. Hey, did it seem like I was fighting you?"

"Well, no," said Xion, looking up at him again. "I'm glad you didn't."

"Now that I think about it, didn't Axel say, 'Don't be surprised if you two get the urge to do it'," asked Roxas. "I didn't get it then, but I think I understand now." Xion giggled.

"I think he knew before we did. I didn't think we were that blind."

"Well, that's the last of the mistletoe," said Demyx, wiping his forehead. "Now I'm all sweaty. Gross." Xigbar rolled his eyes.

"You're sweaty? Who's been doing most of the hanging? If I knew this would take more than one day, I never would've agreed to help."

"Come on, Xiggy," said Demyx. "We had three days of goofing around during free time."

"Normally, I like to do useful things with my free time," said Xigbar, walking down the wall and onto the floor.

"And making the Castle more cheerful-looking isn't useful," Demyx asked. Xigbar snorted.

"What good's making the Castle look cheerful to people who aren't supposed to have emotions?"

"If you've been thinking that this whole time, why did you help," asked Demyx.

"I was bored," said Xigbar. "Plus, keeping an eye on the mistletoe archways might be fun."

"You mean like blackmail," said Demyx.

"I'd have to get a camera for that," said Xigbar. "Still, it might be funny to see if anyone tries to kiss the Lightning Queen."

"Still, we'll have to be careful that we don't end up under one with her," said Demyx. "I think I'll just stick to portals until it's time to take all of this down."

"Coward," Xigbar said.

"I'm not a coward," said Demyx. "I just value my life."

"Whatever you want to call it, I guess," said Xigbar. "I guess the only rooms that aren't decorated are Xemmy's office, the bedrooms, the medical ward, and Vexen's lab."

"I'd like to still be alive for my next birthday, thank you," said Demyx. "Besides, Vexen and Xemnas strike me as being Scrooges. I'm amazed that we even get off as much as we do around Christmas time."

"He knows some of us use holidays to go on an alcohol binge, so he figures we need a couple days to sober up," said Xigbar. "He doesn't give us vacation just because it's a holiday."

"So he's actually giving some of us an excuse to act like idiots," asked Demyx.

"Since when was alcohol an excuse to act like an idiot," asked Xigbar.

"Since New Year's Day last year when you walked through Larxene's door and started digging through her stuff while you were drunk," said Demyx. "You were lucky to get away with a quick zap."

"Funny, I don't remember that happening," said Xigbar.

"Of course you don't," Demyx exclaimed. "Didn't I just say you were drunk? Well, 'drunk' is actually being generous."

"So I was hammered," Xigbar offered. "I can see why I don't remember what happened then. Well, I do remember getting zapped. Just can't remember what I did to deserve it."

"How about you stop before you get hammered this time," Demyx suggested.

Deck the halls with boughs of holly

Fa-la-la-la-la La-la-la-la

Tis the season to be jolly

Axel decided to roll over and not ask questions. Surely Demyx would shut up soon so he could get back to sleep.

Don we now our gay apparel

Okay, what the hell was that line supposed to mean? Apparel meant clothing, but clothes couldn't be homosexual. Maybe it was the other meaning. Wait, clothes couldn't be happy either, could they? More importantly, why was he putting so much thought into this so early in the morning?

We wish you a Merry Christmas

We wish you a Merry Christmas

We wish you a Merry Christmas

And a happy New Year

Good tidings we bring

"Demyx, enough with the singing already," Axel snapped.

"Well, Merry Christmas to you too," said Demyx. Axel groaned.

"So? I'm tired and I want to sleep in."

"Fine, I'll just get lost," said Demyx. "I'll see you whenever you decide to drag yourself out of bed."

"I have never heard of drinking eggnog for breakfast," said Koxra.

"It's probably the only Christmas-related thing that can be served for breakfast," said Xion. Demyx laughed.

"Yeah. How many people eat turkey and stuffing for breakfast?"

"No one I know of," said Xion.

"Maybe if they worked at night and came home in the morning," Koxra suggested. "Unless my brother is the only one who came home and ate fried chicken after working all night, that is."

"That actually makes some sense," said Demyx. "But it's still weird." Koxra laughed.

"Yeah, I know. I told him that every morning and he always said, 'It's not like I just got out of bed'. I guess the fact that he hadn't been sleeping made it not seem like breakfast to him."

"Demyx, Axel isn't still in bed, is he," asked Roxas.

"Yeah," Demyx replied. "He woke up just long enough to yell at me for singing Christmas songs while he was trying to sleep."

"That's weird," said Koxra. "I didn't think he headed off to bed that late. But, he did fall asleep while we were watching TV, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised."

"What were you watching," asked Roxas.

"I don't even remember what it was called," said Koxra. "It was some sort of western movie, though. I have no clue how he slept through all the gunshots."

"It all depends if he was bored or not," said Roxas.

"Well, since he picked it and was awake during the dynamite scene, I'd say he was just tired," said Koxra. Demyx laughed.

"What, did you wear him out?"

"More like the TV did since we were watching it most of the day," said Koxra. "I can't really do too many fun things until my arm heals. I also thought it would be funny to show him my drawings. He thought the picture of him looked like a porcupine on a black pole. I hadn't thought of that one."

"What did he call mine," asked Demyx. Koxra laughed.

"Mud wearing a coat! I didn't think I made your hair that brown."

"It's not brown anyway," said Demyx. "It's dirty blond."

"Still, I didn't have a colored pencil called 'dirty blond'," said Koxra. "So, I had to improvise and try light brown." Demyx chuckled.

"I guess you wouldn't do much better if I posed for you, huh?"

"I doubt it," Koxra replied.

"Merry Christmas, Axel," said Xion as the red-head entered the room. He sat down.

"Wonder who came up with that saying. I don't feel very 'merry' today."

"I doubt whoever came up with the saying was thinking of you when they thought it up," said Roxas. Axel put his head in his hands.

"Yeah, I don't really care. I'm still tired."

"Why'd you get up, then," asked Koxra.

"I found a cat laying on me," said Axel. "Know anything about that, Demyx?"

"Hey, I didn't put him up to it," said Demyx. "He probably wanted to lay there because you're so warm. Wait, you didn't do anything to him, did you?" Axel looked up.

"I didn't hurt your cat. I just picked him up and put him on the floor so I could get up."

"Hmm, you've never had a cat sleep with you before, have you," asked Koxra.

"I never had a cat or lived with someone who did before," said Axel.

"Well, it takes some getting used to," Koxra replied. "But not everyone likes it when a cat sleeps with them, I guess."

"It was probably about time I got up anyway," said Axel. "I doubt anyone else is still sleeping right now."

"I don't know about that," said Demyx. "I haven't seen Xiggy all morning." Axel snorted.

"He probably has a hangover. Around midnight, I saw him stumbling through the hallway drunk." Demyx shook his head.

"And I told him the other day to keep an eye on his drinking. I guess he didn't get into any trouble or I would've heard about it."

"Yeah," said Axel. "I don't think Larxene would want to find him in her room again." Koxra stared.

"He seriously went in Larxene's room when he was drunk?"

"I was amazed that he made it out with only a zap," said Axel, laughing. "I guess she was in a good mood."

"I'd imagine that she would've been in serious trouble if she purposely hurt a superior really bad," said Koxra. "Besides, drunk or not, I doubt Xigbar would've let her attack him too much."

"You're probably right about that," said Demyx. "But, drunk Xiggy is pretty unpredictable."

"Well, he definitely wouldn't search through Larxene's things if he was sober," said Koxra.

"Thanks, Captain Obvious," said Axel.

"You're welcome, Major Flame," said Koxra, smirking.

"I think I like General Flame better," said Axel.

"You wouldn't like General Flurry, then," asked Koxra. Demyx shook his head.

"I don't think either of you have any business commanding an army." Axel shrugged.

"Wouldn't want to anyhow. It's nice that we don't have to worry about a whole army when we're on missions."

"Unless an army comes and attacks us, that is," said Koxra. Axel rolled his eyes.

"That has almost no chance of happening."

"As long as we keep working by sneaking around, I guess you have a point there," said Koxra.

Well, I made it to six pages for this chapter. I didn't know how much space it would take up, but I thought this would be a good stopping point. I'll get to work on writing the sequel, which I'm changing the title for. I have no idea what I'm changing it to yet. Maybe I'll come up with something while I'm working on it.

By the way, I would like some feedback for this story. If some things could use improvement, let me know.