WELL! This little story here is for Blue Cupcakes, and she almost made it too easy for me when she requested a Claire/Gray/Jack/Ann love square situation. It was just so perfectly 'A Midsummer Night's Dream', how could I not use it? What you are about to see is the result of some major cutting down and editing; I had too many plans and not enough time, but hopefully you all like the little story that's come out of it.
Several quotes by William Shakespeare, and obviously, the general storyline is based off his 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'. Enjoy!
Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the town, Mayor Thomas was yelling and storming around.
His daughter heard crying; the gossips enthralled, the Harvest Goddess herself nothing short of appalled.
"He is a wonderful man, Claire!" the Mayor beseeched his daughter, his round face flushed and as stormy as the weather outside. "Jack has brought this town so much! His work on the farm has done extraordinary things for the quality of life for everybody here, and the fact that he has asked to marry you is an honor no other girl in Mineral Town could even dream of! And you – you're trying to tell me that you won't?"
"Jack is a great guy," the blonde replied calmly, nodding slowly. "I just don't feel that way about him. I don't love him, and I can't force myself to. I can't ignore my heart."
"Claire," he growled, shaking his head violently, "You know I have no issues with Gray as a person. He's a fine boy. But where is his money? If you seriously considered marrying him you'd spend the rest of your life a pauper, there's no doubt about it."
"Don't be foolish Daddy," she said, her brow furrowed in confusion. "I wouldn't be as well off as I would be with Jack, I'm sure, but it's not exactly like we don't have the money to make sure we were comfortable."
"Oh?" he said suddenly, tilting his head slightly. "And what money do you have, exactly?"
"W-well, yours," she faltered, deeply confused now. She shrugged as she ran one hand across the top of the expensive dining table. "We're not exactly poor. I mean, I'll have enough to live off, no matter who I choose to marry."
There was a long silence as the Mayor took a seat in his armchair, massaging his temples slightly. "Claire, I didn't want it to come to this."
"What are you talking about?"
He looked up at his daughter, his face stony. "I can't let you throw away this opportunity for lifelong happiness on some careless whim. I love you far too much for that. Gray has… enchanted you, with his charms, his jewelry – pretty, though worthless as it is – and his good looks. But enchantments will always pass, my dear girl, and if I don't step in now you will snap out of it one day only to find yourself in a loveless, destitute marriage. Claire…" he closed his eyes briefly, "If you don't marry Jack, I am cutting you off from the family inheritance entirely." Claire stood shocked, utterly speechless as he continued. "As your father, I know what is best for you. You're nineteen years old - you're still a child, for heaven's sake. You don't know who you love. Luckily, I do. You love the man who loves you; the man who will be best for you –"
"Gray loves me," she blurted out through gritted teeth. "He loves me more than anything on this earth, and I love him." She took a step closer so she was looking down on her father as he sat in his chair. Her pretty face twisted into a disgusted sneer. "Go on, cut me off. Disown me. If you won't accept Gray, I take that to mean you don't accept me or my feelings, and I don't want to be associated with a father who doesn't love me enough to want to see me happy."
"Jack will make you happy!" her father yelled, pushing himself up out of his chair and pulling himself up to full height, still a little shorter than Claire.
"I don't love him!" she exploded, her fists clenched in complete exasperation. "How could I ever be happy with someone that I don't love?"
"You'll learn," he assured her, trying to make his voice level. "When you're more mature, you'll learn there are more important things in this world than a fleeting attraction."
"Like what? Money?"
"Yes, of course money!" he blurted out as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. Claire stopped dead, fixing the Mayor with a blank stare before shaking her head once.
"When you're ready to love me for who I am, and accept who I love, that's the day you can call me your daughter again." She turned towards the door, obviously ready to walk straight out.
"Claire, where on earth do you think you're going?" her father burst out, making her pause for a split second. "It's nine o'clock on Christmas Eve, and it's a snowstorm out there. Listen, just go to bed. We'll talk about this in the morning."
"No, we won't. You'll just tell me I'm, like, an idiot; or I'm too young to know my own heart, or my morals and values are too immature to be trusted."
"I'm glad you understand," the Mayor said with a relaxed smile, looking immensely relieved. His daughter frowned at him for a brief moment, before turning, walking out the front door, and slamming it angrily behind her.
"Woah, slow down soldier," Ann called out, holding up both hands defensively as Claire came barreling into the empty inn, shaking the snow out of her blonde hair. "What's your hurry? What are you doing here at this hour, anyway?"
"Oh Ann, it's so awful," she lamented, throwing herself dramatically down into a chair and resting her head on the table. "I've run away from home… and I'm not going back until my dad apologizes to me and shows that he actually loves me."
"What are you talking about?" the redhead questioned, taking the seat opposite. Claire glanced up, her eyes filled with tears.
"He's trying to force me to marry Jack."
And with that, Ann's world froze for a moment.
"- I don't know why he can't just accept the fact that I'm happy and I'm in love, and that isn't going to change. I mean, Jack's nice, you know? He really, honestly is, and I can be the bigger person here and admit that, but there's zero attraction for him. Zero. Nada. Zilch. I mean, the idea of marrying the guy is like – ugh. I'd be bored out of my mind, no joke. I'm in love with Gray and Dad's gone and cut me off, Ann. No money, no inheritance, no nothing unless I marry the guy he wants me to marry. It's like slavery or something!"
Claire was a truly beautiful girl to look at, a fact balanced by her occasionally less than 'intellectual' disposition. Her blonde hair was long, perfectly straight and shining whereas Ann had no choice but to keep her own curly mop of carrot-colored hair in a permanent braid at the back of her head where it sat perpetually riddled with loose strands and frizz. Claire's eyes were a clear, bright blue framed by unbelievably long, dark eyelashes – aided by copious amounts of expensive makeup, of course, but still exquisite when compared to Ann's own gray-blue eyes and light, barely noticeable lashes. Her complexion was tanned and completely smooth, while Ann's face seemed to be having a constant battle between freckles and translucent white for who got to occupy more space. And of course, the figure that had all the boys in town drooling – Claire had curves in all the right places and none in the wrong ones, while at the age of nineteen, Ann was still patiently waiting for puberty to do something about her distinct lack of chest.
Truth be told, Ann was reasonably good-looking in her own right. There certainly wasn't anything hideous or deformed about her face or figure, but being close friends with Claire would do nothing for any girl's self esteem. Throw the crush she'd had on Jack for years into the mix, keeping in mind that the guy was bordering on obsessed with Claire and had never once acknowledged Ann as anything more than a tomboy kid with torn, ankle-bashing jeans and dirty runners – so yeah, she was kind of bitter, and more than kind of self conscious.
"I'm just so mad, and I'm going to do something to make him see that I really am serious about this with Gray. I know he thinks that I won't last on my own because I'm a ditz or whatever he thinks, but I'm going to prove that I can. Ann –" she beckoned her friend closer, lowering her voice dramatically despite the empty inn. "I'm going to run away. Tonight. With Gray. We're going to go to the forest and set ourselves up in one of the mines and stay there until Dad realizes that I'm a grown woman and he has no right telling me who to love."
"Are you out of your mind?" Ann asked incredulously, shaking her head in disbelief at her friend. "Claire, you'll die out there. I haven't seen it snowing like this for years, and those mines aren't exactly safe. Can't you just stay at the inn?"
"NO, Ann! It's the principle of the thing! I have to prove to my father that I don't need him or his little town. All I need is Gray." She hesitated. "And like, blankets and food and water and maybe a little miniature heater or something. Listen, you have to promise me you won't tell my father where I'm going. I need him to worry and realize that it doesn't matter who I marry as long as I'm safe. Can you do that for me?" She didn't even give the waitress time to answer before grinning and kissing her on the cheek. "Great. You're the best Ann! I'll see you when I see you." She bounded away up the stairs to tell Gray her plan, and Ann stood still, unmoving, until a hurried-looking Claire returned and walked out of the inn, Gray looking extremely confused and carrying a large amount of supplies behind her.
Ann groaned, sitting down in a chair and burying her head in her hands. Claire was a nice girl, and great fun to be around, but being friends with her was just so much work. It was hard to see how Jack doted on her, and how Claire ranged from uninterested to downright rude in her responses. And still, he kept waiting, kept hoping that she would change her mind, never glancing twice at the girl with frizzy hair and dirty clothes that he had come to see as a mere family friend or distant relative. Still, she couldn't just let Claire go and catch her death in the mines and the snow, leaving her family and friends in a frenzy about where she was.
And all at once, everything became very clear to the redhead. She would tell Jack. She would tell Jack that Claire had run away with Gray, and she would go with him to look for Claire and Gray, and he would, in the process, somehow suddenly realize that Ann wasn't just the kid sister type, but a young woman who he could seriously consider marrying.
Yes. Everything would be just fine.
"Run away? What do you mean she's run away?" Jack asked, frowning deeply at the small woman standing in his living room. He had been getting ready for bed, having just finished tying a ribbon around Claire's Christmas present – only to be interrupted with the news that she had apparently run off to the woods with her blacksmith boyfriend. Surely Claire wasn't the type for camping? Especially not in this weather. She was an indoors girl, a curl-up-by-the-fire-with-Jack-when-he-gets-in-from-work girl. At the very least, that was the way it had been in his mind for a very long time. "Claire wouldn't run away," he repeated.
"She told me about half an hour ago," Ann insisted, hands jammed under her crossed arms in an effort to keep warm in her t-shirt and overalls. "I saw her walk out with Gray behind her. All she said was that they were going to the forest, maybe to camp in one of the mines."
"She'll catch her death out there," Jack said impatiently, turning to his closet and pulling it open without hesitation, shrugging on a thick wool jacket. "I don't know what Gray's thinking, dragging her out there –"
"It was Claire's idea," Ann said quickly, "She's impulsive. Some might call it unreliable, really, but I don't know. Whatever."
"Thanks for telling me, anyway. I'll find her before they can go too far and things get out of hand."
"I'll come with you," the waitress offered, her voice sounding rushed. Jack turned slowly to look at her, tilting his head. "I mean, she's my best friend. I have… intuition." She really, really, really hoped he was buying it, because it sounded like a load of crap to her.
He stared her down for a long time – it felt like hours to the girl before him; hours in which she could stare quite contentedly at the way his dark hair flopped across his forehead and the vague smattering of freckles over his nose, almost blending in with his tanned skin. She had to admit it, he and Claire would pop out some damn pretty babies.
"Fine," he said suddenly, and Ann spent a few slightly puzzled moments trying to remember what he had been agreeing to. "Grab something warm out of the closet, I don't want you freezing to death."
He cares! He loves me! Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee-
"Uh, sure," she said casually, flipping her braid as she'd seen Claire do with her hair so many times and wincing as her neck cracked. She strolled over to the closet as if wearing Jack's clothes, which smelled like him, and felt like him and looked like him wasn't the most exciting proposition of her entire life, and eventually picked out his most well-worn, familiar work jacket as if it was just a random choice sitting at the front of the clothes, hoping Jack hadn't noticed her rummaging, desperately searching for it. Trying not to look like a complete and utter creep while being a complete and utter creep – a more difficult task than one would assume – she inhaled deeply, catching the scent of earth and hay and cologne and fire smoke and soap all at once.
"What are you doing?"
"I thought I was going to sneeze and then I didn't," Ann rushed defensively. "It happens all the time. I hate it. There's something really satisfying about a good sneeze, and I hate having all that build up and then nothing. Don't you?"
He sighed, allowing her a brief smile. "Come on, we don't have all night." He handed her a torch and she nearly fainted as he placed one hand on the small of her back while guiding her out the front door. Jack's gaze was fixed straight ahead as he navigated his way across the farm.
He'd been interested in Claire since the moment he came to town. He wasn't alone, of course – the girl was gorgeous; anyone with eyes could see that. But he'd hoped that becoming close with her father would bring him closer to her, and he'd been wrong. She was head over heels for Gray, and it was selfish of him to hope that would end – but hope he did. He was waiting for the day when she would realize that she could come to love him. Or, you know, like him, because most of the time it really seemed like she didn't. He had been to university and worked hard throughout high school; he knew Shakespeare and Yeats like the back of his hand and could quote a hundred sonnets for Claire if she would give him the time of day. But apparently, poetry and witty words weren't the way to win her over. After all, she was dating Gray, and in comparison, Jack wasn't even in the picture.
It was hard to care so much for someone who barely acknowledged your existence.
"Wait here," Jack instructed sharply as he and Ann reached the Goddess' Pond. Ann looked confused and opened her mouth to protest, but Jack simply held one hand up and shook his head. "Not now, Ann. Just sit –" he pointed to a rock at the pond's edge, "- and wait while I check the mine." He went inside without another word to her, and Ann sat down, her chin resting on her fists.
"It's not fair," she muttered to herself, not particularly caring that she sounded like a crazy person. "I'm here with him and he barely notices me. All he can think about is Claire. She doesn't even like him. I'd do anything for him, and – ugh, I'm such a sap." She buried her head in her hands, paying no attention to a slight ripple in the icy water, as below, the Harvest Goddess listened intently to her words.
The Goddess was usually a patient woman, leaving the townsfolk to sort out their own lives wherever possible. However, she was also a compassionate woman, and one filled with the Christmas spirit. It didn't take long for her to make a decision that under normal circumstances, she probably wouldn't have dreamed of making.
"Bold?" She called, clapping her hands to summon the purple Harvest Sprite. He appeared beside her in the water, paddling contentedly.
"I need you to cast a spell for me," she said decisively. "As you know, I can't leave the pond for humans to see me without an offering, while you can go wherever you desire. There is a young man in the mines, and a young woman sitting on the rocks just above this pond who loves him deeply. I want you to cast a love spell on this man to make him feel the same way about her."
"A love spell?" Bold repeated, looking nervous. "Are you sure? We do not usually meddle in such things…"
"I'm certain," the Goddess said firmly, clapping her hands once. "And when your job is done, you may go back to bed. Merry Christmas."
His expression still worried, Bold hesitated for a split second before teleporting into the Spring Mine.
The first thing he saw was a young couple, cuddling together in a corner, obviously trying hard to be silent as somebody else trampled around the other side of the mine. He narrowed his eyes slightly at the woman, thinking she was a bad lady who had stolen the man she was cuddling from the poor girl outside. Muttering a brief enchantment under his breath, he closed his eyes, picturing the redhaired girl as clearly as he could and directing her image at the redhaired boy holding the blonde girl. Bold then opened his eyes and smiled triumphantly to see the man spring to his feet and run out of the mine, leaving the blonde looking desperately puzzled. His work done, the sprite teleported back home with a satisfied smile.
"Oh my love, I've been waiting so long," Ann heard a masculine voice say from behind her. She slowly turned her head to see Gray kneeling, hands clasped together, and rolled her eyes.
"What's gotten into you, love bird? Where's Claire?"
"She's nothing to me," he proclaimed wildly, moving forward on his knees to clasp one of Ann's hands in his own. "I love you. I only love you."
It was probably safe to say that Ann had never been so confused in her life, not because she believed what he was saying for a single second, but because it was Gray. Gray wasn't funny so he didn't try to be funny and she wasn't exactly sure what he was supposed to be doing right now but it was making her uncomfortable and resulting in run-on sentences.
"Stop it," she said firmly, scowling at him. "I'll get mad."
"The last thing I could ever want would be to anger you in any way," Gray said desperately, "But my affections are out of my control. I can't stop loving you. I will never stop loving you." He moved forward, cupping her face in both his hands. She was too shocked to protest or push him away. "I would follow you to the end of the world, my beautiful Ann. It makes me sick to think of the time I wasted on that… that hussy."
"Don't even joke like that!" Ann squealed indignantly. "If Claire heard you talking about her like that, she'd be really upset!"
"Let her hear!" he scoffed, spitting at the ground. "I don't care what she thinks. She is worthless – nothing to me."
"… Gray?" a soft voice echoed from the entrance to the mine. Both Ann and Gray glanced to where Claire was standing beside Jack, her face ghostly pale. "Wh-what did you just say?"
The Harvest Goddess was watching the proceedings above the water in total dismay, cursing the sprite under her breath for being idiotic enough to cast a spell on the wrong man. She couldn't remove a love spell created by somebody else until the next day – and so, looking to do the next best thing, she followed out her original intention and directed a love spell to where she could just barely see Jack standing.
"Move aside, Blacksmith!" Jack instructed immediately in an authorative voice, sweeping over to Ann's side. "This beautiful lady could never be interested in a man of your standing." He grabbed one of Ann's hands and kissed it tenderly three times. "My sweet flower – my shining jewel – my bright star."
"Jack?" Ann said slowly, sounding dazed. "I don't – why are you two doing this?"
"You heard her!" Gray trilled, stepping up beside Ann and slinging one arm around her waist, pulling her around to face him. "She has no interest in your petty charms." In the next instance, he had swept her down into a dip and was kissing her full on the lips.
"GRAY!" Claire exploded wildly, her eyes wide with disbelief and rage. "What the hell do you think you're doing?" She marched up and slapped him smartly in the face, before turning to Ann. "And what the hell do you think you're doing? What did you have to say to him to make him go all googly over you, huh? Talking crap about me, is that it? You know, I honestly didn't think you could be such a pathetic bitch."
"You will apologize to the lady!" Jack roared in outrage, stepping up to Claire and towering over her. "It is no fault of hers that this – this villain chooses to dote upon her. Perhaps if your charms had been as great as hers, his affections would not have strayed."
"This coming from the guy who's been like, obsessed with me for years?" Claire burst out incredulously. "Ann's been completely in love with you for longer than I can count, and you've done nothing but ignore her – and now my charms suddenly aren't as 'great' as hers?"
Jack ignored her, turning to Ann with adoration glittering in his eyes. "You – you love me? Do I dare believe it?"
Wrenching herself out of Gray's grip, Ann shook her head firmly, her face bright red. "I hate you all! I don't know what kind of sick joke you all worked out in there, but I'm really not finding it funny at all and you all need to stop now."
"Darling," Jack said softly, kneeling at her feet. "My love for you is not a joke. It is eternal and everlasting." He cleared his throat, closing his eyes briefly. "Shall I compare thee to a Summer's day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate. Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May –"
"Oh, hush!" Gray burst out, shoving the man inside and taking his position kneeling at Ann's feet. His face, previously filled with an intense passion, went blank for a moment as he grappled for any knowledge of poetry or literature beyond the books in the library. "Uh… oh, Romeo… Romeo… wherefore art thou –"
"Stop it!" she screeched, wrenching herself away yet again. "I don't know what the hell is going on, but Claire's crying over there and you need to stop."
"I told you she's nothing to me. I see only you," Gray repeated, making the blonde's wails grow louder.
Below the lake, the Harvest Goddess could do nothing but wring her hands anxiously and watch the scene play out above her.
"Need some help, Sis?"
She turned around quickly to see the Witch Princess lurking in the shadows of the lake with a wide smile on her face.
"Not from you."
"Gee, this looks fun," she said enthusiastically, clapping her hands together. "What a mess. Broken hearts and everything. I never knew you were so cool, Sis. It's always, 'leave the mortals alone', 'don't kill that guy's cows', 'stop making couples break up'. And here you are doing it all by yourself! Sweet."
"I don't want them to break up, I want it fixed," the Goddess managed through gritted teeth, watching nervously as Jack and Gray seemed dangerously close to a fistfight.
Her sister rolled her eyes. "Alright, I'll help you out. I can't undo love spells, as such… but I can make new ones." She pointed a thin finger at Gray, closing her eyes, then at Claire, before grinning. "Have fun!" As suddenly as she had come, she disappeared, leaving the Goddess to watch the group above unravel even further.
"How dare you consider that you could win her affections when I myself am not even worthy," Jack was yelling, before pausing when he noticed the expression on Gray's face. "… What?"
"You are truly the most remarkable, beautiful man I have ever come across," Gray murmured, reaching forward to stroke Jack's stunned face lightly. "I was blinded by these… women, but I see clearly now. You are my past, my present, and my future."
"Step aside, freak," Claire spat venomously, smacking her hip into Gray and tossing her hair back as she offered Jack a dazzling grin. "You know, we've always had a connection, you and I. You know, with my father being the Mayor, and you being such a successful young man. It's only natural that we should end up together, really."
"Don't be afraid!" Gray called out over the top of her voice, holding both arms out. "Of course people will talk. Let them talk. Let them laugh. A love like this knows no boundaries. A love like ours."
"Quiet, both of you!" Jack bellowed, turning back to Ann. "Ignore these fools. Let them grovel. My heart belongs only to you."
"You're all insane," she proclaimed, wide-eyed. "Seriously, this needs to st-" She was silenced by Jack's lips pressing tenderly on her own – she stood still, arms dangling by her sides, as his lips moved gently against her firmly closed pair. Claire stifled another sob seeing Jack kiss Ann, and Gray quickly bit down on his fist and blinked his eyes furiously, turning his face away dramatically. Ann brought her hands up to Jack's chest, with every intention of pushing him off, before it hit her – this was Jack. Kissing her. And whatever game he was playing, or act the three of them had concocted, she would be an idiot to pass up the opportunity she'd spent three years waiting for.
Her hands fisted in his shirt, and damn it, she kissed him back.
His touch fluttered to her waist and gripped tightly as her mouth moved against his, slowly and rhythmically. He nipped at her bottom lip and she flinched slightly in response, a quick shiver shooting up her spine – and suddenly the kiss had deepened, more urgent and –
"AIYEEEEEEE!" Claire chanted, grabbing Ann by her braid and yanking her away from the farmer with all her might. The redhead squealed slightly as she toppled unceremoniously to the floor, none too pleased with the sharp pain at the back of her head.
"Not much longer," the Goddess was repeating to herself over and over, a kind of mantra as she waited desperately beneath the waters. She could only hope that, when the spells were reversed, all four could put it down to a temporary madness of some sort. Five minutes to midnight.
"I know I've been an idiot, about so many things, but I know I love you now, Jack," Claire pleaded. "Let this become the beautiful relationship we both know it can be. I want this more than anything in the world."
Four minutes to midnight.
"Ann, I promise you, Claire's futile words cannot alter my affections. You are ten times the woman she can ever hope to be. I say this to her face – see how she cries? See the weakness she demonstrates? While you – brave and unmovable – you are the one I love," Jack promised, his voice sincere while Claire howled, sobbing into her hands.
Three minutes to midnight.
"Don't be afraid, Jack. Don't be afraid to take a wild leap into the unknown. Unlike these women, I've got the muscles to catch you if you fall." Gray finished his sentence with a wink that looked more than a little disturbing and out of place on him.
Two minutes to midnight.
"You're all completely, out of your minds, bat-crazy insane and I want you all to stop whatever the hell you're doing RIGHT NOW. I've had enough. I'm going home."
The Harvest Goddess waved one hand smoothly through the water, making all four young people drop to the ground as if they were dolls, fast asleep. Closing her eyes, she breathed out the words that she prayed would reverse the spell and leave them with only a very faint, dream-like memory.
"When thou wakest, thou takest, true delight, in the sight, of thy former lady's eye,"
Midnight, Christmas Day.
Ann was the first to wake, blinking furiously and shooting to her feet, taking in her surroundings in utter confusion and rubbing her head where she had hit it on the ground. Jack soon followed, standing up next to her and frowning, both with only vague memories of what had brought them there and what had occurred. Gray didn't bother getting to his feet, simply sitting on the ground with a confused expression on his face, while next to him, Claire blinked once before reaching out, squeezing his hand and grinning slightly.
"So, I had the weirdest dream."
"Thank you for walking back with me," Ann said timidly, standing outside the inn and occasionally glancing up at Jack. "I mean, I would have been okay, but…"
"Better safe than sorry," he nodded with a quick smile. Claire had given up on her run-away adventure and had allowed Gray to take her back home, where she promised to talk to her father about the situation in the morning. Still, her actions had been reckless and childish, and his mouth twisted slightly as he realized that out of the two, by coming to him and telling him Claire had gone, it had been Ann who had acted as the mature, adult one to a degree.
"Well, uh," the waitress began, shrugging her way out of his jacket, "I guess I'll see you when I see you."
"Keep it. What are you doing tomorrow?" he blurted out, barely even realizing that he was saying it. Ann looked up at him instantly, her brow knitting together.
"For Christmas? Nothing, really. Giving Dad his present, getting mine, making Christmas lunch for the people who come to the inn."
"How about you come to my house for dinner, then?" Jack pressed, shrugging his shoulders. "I could use the company and I –" he actually blushed, very, very slightly, "You're, uh… I do like spending time with you."
There was a long silence as Ann searched his face to see if he was making fun of her. When his sincere expression didn't change, she finally answered. "Y-yes. That's, uh… yeah, that sounds fine."
"I'll see you then," he said with a half-grin, turning to walk before changing his mind, turning back and kissing her very briefly on the forehead before quickly heading away from the inn, shoving his hands in his pockets as he went, a small smile on his face.
Talk about a Christmas miracle.