"Brother! Brother, help me up, I can't reach the top by myself!"

Lili giggled, making a grabbing motion towards the high ceiling. A pale golden star was clenched tightly in her right hand, and her joyful gaze was torn between said older brother's face and the tallest tip of the tree that she was determined to reach the top of, one way or another.

The easy way was to have Vasch lift her up there. The hard way was to scale the tree. Which was possible anyway, Lili knew; she had done it in a past year…right before receiving a huge safety lecture from her brother, of course.

A smile broke out on Vasch's face, one of the easy, genuine smiles that hardly any human being besides Lili had seen. The mask that he had placed so carefully over himself had been waterproofed over the years, and it remained that way to anyone except his precious younger sibling. She spent much of her time probing at his shield, finding his weak points and shattering them, though the cracks were visible only to her—all others could see was the alternately solemn or angry Swiss man.

That man, however, was taken over by the less-powerful teddy bear of a man that Lili was familiar with. She loved this side of him, and thankfully over the years saw less and less of the other side. Though the two had no blood relation, Vasch was coaxed gently out of his disguise whever close to her. So now, when she swiveled to face him arms outstretched, he took the opportunity with a rare smile, grabbing her by the waist and tossing her up into the air. Lili squealed in glee, arms flailing as he caught her just before she landed on the floor, swinging her back up to rest her on his shoulders piggyback style. His hands were immediately wrapped tightly around her little Mary-Jane clad feet to secure her position up high.

"Ready, Li~?" Vasch asked, a merry, melodic lilt in his voice. The little girl nodded vigorously. He stretched up onto his toes just as she stretched out her thin arm, placing the five-pointed shape directly onto the tree and leaning back to clap her hands.

There were, however, a few things left to do that made Christmas the sight to see that it was, one being the tree getting lit up. Of course Vasch had the honors on this one, seeing as their first year together Lili had nearly set their tree on fire with too many lights. He pushed the two-pronged plug into its socket and the pair twisted back around to watch the tree light, one string of tiny bulbs at a time. The multicolored, multitextured ornaments were lit up from behind, brightly shining with holiday joy. Vasch gently lifted Lili down from her comfy place on him, capturing her in an embrace against his chest. Her arms slithered around his torso was well, head leaning on him to listen to his heartbeat.

Ba-dum.

Ba-dum.

"We should get you up to bed," he spoke gently and softly, taking her hand and separating them by a fraction of an inch. "You've been such a good girl this year. We should get you tucked in right away or Santa won't come and leave you and presents. What a shame that would be, eh?"

Lili's eyes widened in terror, and she looked as though she might cry and any second. She proceeded to practically drag her brother up the stairs, much to his amusement. Flinging open the door to her room and paying no mind to the loud smack and probable indentation it made on the wall (again), Lili slid swiftly into her bed and squeezed her eyes tightly shut, as if expecting sleep to come and take her immediately. Vasch, grinning at her little display, automatically took his usual seat by the head of her bed. He liked to stay by her side, her tiny little fingers held in his own until her face was peaceful and her body was limp. Usually she was fast to fall asleep, but tonight she was tossing and turning like a fish out of water. Her blue eyes stared out into nothingness before closing softly,