DISCLAIMER: Nothing belongs to me if you've seen it on TV. There's a lot of Christmas stuff I don't own, either. Who knows how much of that will get dragged outta the attic. Soundtrack for this chapter: Living Earth by David Maslanka; The Poem of Ecstasy by Alexander Scriabin; The Beginning of Times by Amorphis.


The cozy fire in the fireplace, the tree with its twinkling lights, the gentle, quiet sound of carols bringing nostalgia to the room: it was Christmas Eve again. On the TV, it was the 1950s, and that world-weary kid was again seeking that BB gun from Santa; neither of the Stoppables were paying much attention to the movie. "This time last year," Kim said, softly, snuggling closer to her husband, "we were in Global Justice headquarters."

"Yeah, and they kept me sedated through that whole adventure. I missed everything. Our first mission in years, and I missed it."

"You didn't miss much." She hadn't told him much. He knew GJ had captured them; he knew both Shego and Dementor had wanted the secret weapon; and he knew the weapon had been destroyed. He didn't know what the weapon had been, or what effect it had on its victims. To some degree, her actions had been dictated out of fear; after the scandal, GJ was no longer a threat, but there were other powers out there that had not been, perhaps could not be neutralized. The less Ron knew about Weapon XIII-666, the better. The safer.

She didn't want to hurt him either. Will Du had claimed Snowman Hank only had power over weak-willed people. Why should she reveal that? Or the reason why both Ron and Drakken had been such inept, maladroit bumblers throughout their respective careers?

No, that sort of knowledge helped no one. So she kept it to herself. She kissed him, lightly, on his cheek; he smiled the big Ron smile that she cherished, and was about to return the kiss when the Kimmunicator startled them both with its raucous signal.

It was Wade. They exchanged a glance; in their senior year of high-school they'd facetiously decided he was interrupting their intimate moments on purpose. Even now he had an unerring talent for calling at the most inopportune time. "Hyvää joulua!" the young giant jovially announced.

Ron looked puzzled; Kim asked "Are you in Finland?"

"Sure am. Professor Holopainen needed my advice on some cybernetic stuff. So I thought I'd wish you guys a merry Yuletide while I had a moment." Years before the Snowman Hank incident, Wade had set up failsafe programs designed to restore his memory should he fall prey to brainwashing. With enemies like Drakken and Dementor, it had seemed prudent.

When Global Justice returned him to his home, those same programs had undone Dr. Ludovico's 'foolproof' technique; upon realizing what had happened, Wade had called in a few favors to some very high government officials. Officials whose computers he'd repaired, without revealing what he'd found on their hard drives.

Those officials owed the young man their careers. The commando invasion that had rescued Kim and Ron from GJ HQ had been the result.

They'd also captured Shego, Dementor and Myron, the latter two bruised and singed by their narrow escape from the copter. The last copy of The Six Tasks of Snowman Hank had definitely been destroyed in the explosion. The growing peril of Global Justice itself had also come to an end, the organization disbanded, Will Du imprisoned in disgrace. In his official statement on the matter, the President claimed to have known nothing about Weapon XIII-666.

Of course.

"Samoin, Wade." Kim smiled.

Ron added, "Nil Sine Numine." The state motto was the only foreign phrase he knew.

"Gotta roll. Professor Holopainen wants me to come with him and his family to some sort of weird concert. Fiddlers in helicopters. It's got a long history. Evidently the premiere was postponed for some reason. Some sort of political intrigue."

"Leave it to the Finnish," Kim proclaimed. "Lot of musical talent comes from there." It sounded good, but she couldn't really think of any, right off hand. Wasn't there some ancient composer named Rautavaara or something?

"Actually I think it was written by a German," Wade said, almost apologetically. "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, guys. See ya when I get back to the States."

Wade signed off at the same time the movie on TV was concluding; as the end credits rolled, an entirely too cheerful voice boisterously declared "Twenty-four hours of your favorite Christmas special! Only here, on KXKVI!"

Kim frowned, just a little. "Is that Gregg Greatman? Boy, that guy's annoying –"

"KP, do you remember The Six Tasks of Snowman Hank?"

"Wh – what?" She was shocked and couldn't hide it. "Snowman Hank? Sure. Sure. I remember it. What about it? Fred Copperhead. Christmas star. Feud between the Fockses and the Hayres." She managed to put on a smile. "Friends, family, and turning bad guys good…"

"Honey, don't freak out about it. I just wanted to tell you something."

"About Snowman Hank?" Her heart was hammering in her chest. What did he know? How did he know? She'd tried so hard to keep him from it. "What?"

"I finally saw it again. Last month."

"Where?"

"Calm down, KP. It's no big deal." He wondered why she was so upset. "We were cleaning out the office at Smarty Mart and I found an old VHS tape. Some employee must have recorded it years ago and left the tape there by accident."

"And – and you watched it?" Visions of lost pants, of failed missions, of his horrid alter-ego Zorpox and the fearsome Mega-Weather Generator flashed before her. Who could say what a fresh dose of Weapon XIII-666 might have done to him? She felt a tear running down her cheek. This was the worst possible time.

"Yeah. And you know what?" There was a wistful sadness on his features. "You really can't go home again. It was awful."

She'd never been more relieved in her life. "A - awful?"

"Why did I like it so much as a kid? It's terrible. Just one boring cliché after another. And those songs are absolutely dreadful, too." He paused. "That argument we had last year? You were right. I guess I was just too immature as a kid to see it."

She regarded her husband with a new respect. He would always be a rebel, an iconoclast, an eccentric. In a world full of round holes, he would ever be a trapezohedral peg. That was inseparable from his character, part of what she loved about him. But he was finally growing up. Maturing.

Putting aside childish things.

One question remained. "What, uh, what happened to that tape, hon?"

"Broke two-thirds of the way through. I pitched it in the incinerator with the rest of the trash." He suddenly realized why she was acting so peculiarly. "Oh, man, I get it. You got me a copy of it for Christmas. Oh, man, KP, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to crush your best wishes under the iron jackboot of –"

She put her finger to his lips, silenced him gently. "No iron jackboots this year, Ron." The cuckoo clock began to warble out midnight. "It's Christmas. I've been waiting all day to tell you. I wanted it to be a Christmas present."

"Tell me what, hon?"

She drew him close, her eyes gazing into his, her voice barely a whisper. "I'm pregnant."

Somewhere sleigh bells jingled their magic in the snowbound Christmas morn.