For the V Holiday Fic Fest prompt #25 Lisa + Erica (gen) - baking
"Hi, Mrs Evans. Is Tyler in?"
Erica shook her head. "Sorry. I thought maybe he was with you?"
Lisa, stood on the doorstep, shook her head apologetically. Erica sighed.
"What's that smell?" Lisa asked, her nose twitching appreciatively.
"Cinnamon. We were going to make cookies, like we used to when Tyler was younger," Erica said. She ought to have told Tyler her plans; then he might have come home to join her like he'd promised. Or maybe not, an unwanted part of her whispered traitorously. He doesn't care about you and your family traditions. He only cares about Joe, thinks you were only a family when Joe lived in this house.
"Hmm?" Erica returned her attention to Lisa. "Yes. That is, I baked them and Tyler ate them. I don't suppose this year would have been any different." She shivered as the wind picked up, sending a tin can rolling noisily down the street. "It's chilly out; would you like to come in for a while?"
Lisa nodded. "Thank you."
They made their way to the kitchen. The table was covered in flour. A large bowl with a wooden spoon sticking out of it sat to one side. Baking paraphernalia filled the rest of the surface that wasn't taken up with the marble slab and rolling pin.
Lisa stared at the display with curiosity. She picked up a metal star.
Erica tipped her head. "Would you like to help me?"
Lisa nodded slowly and she gave Erica warm smile. "I would like that very much, Mrs Evans."
"Call me Erica," she replied. "Here, have an apron."
Lisa took off her Peacekeeper jacket – Erica didn't know if it was by accident or design that the camera badge ended up face down on the stool but she was glad of it.
Lisa slipped the apron on. "What do we do?"
Erica showed her how to flour up her hands and handle the cookie dough, how to roll it carefully in only one direction before turning it to stretch it in the other direction.
"Now we choose the shapes," Erica said. "Why don't you do some stars?"
Lisa carefully cut out the stars with admirable efficiency, lining up the points to make use of as much dough as possible.
"That's good," Erica said. "But don't be so neat. We can roll it back out. Don't worry about being so…controlled. Try some other shapes."
"All right." Lisa picked up a tree and cut it out. With sudden boldness she slammed it down in the middle of the untouched cookie dough.
After several trees, they had to stop to roll out the remnants and then to roll out the second half of the dough. Lisa did this with ease, as if she'd been doing it every year. But perhaps such dexterity was expected of her. Erica thought of the punishments Anna would give out for failure, for deliberate wastefulness, for smiling at the simple of joy of making cookie shapes. She shook her head, banishing the image. This was a time for joy.
Rounds, reindeers, and squares followed the trees and stars onto the greased baking tray.
"Now we bake them," Erica said.
While the cookies where in the oven Erica made huge mugs of hot chocolate with marshmallows. They perched on the stools and talked about the holidays – Lisa said Joshua had read up on Christmas and Hanukkah, Yule and Saturnalia, Kwanza, Festivus, Boxing Day, and all the other holiday traditions taking place in December. The Visitors didn't celebrate, Lisa explained; not at celestial observances or religious holidays nor birthdays. Only one day in the cycle that was the closest equivalent to the human's year was special, and it marked the day they'd left their planet to seek out new worlds. It wasn't a time of especial joy, more a time of solemn reflection and gratitude at what they'd achieved.
Erica talked about hanging stockings and watching classic movies and playing seasonal music. The smell of the cookies filled the whole house and the heat from the oven warmed the kitchen. It finally felt like the holiday season.
Once the cookies were baked Erica left them to cool for a while. She showed Lisa some family photos from Christmases past, and found a red ribbon which she knotted neatly over Lisa's tidy ponytail. Erica put on some Christmas music and declared it was time to for the best part – next to eating the cookies, of course.
So they decorated the cookies. This was something else Lisa took very seriously, but Erica remembered Tyler's only attempt at cookie decorating and his determination to make the squares into realistic looking gift boxes, so she didn't say a word. They worked without speaking, listening to the carols and modern seasonal favourites for a while.
"What do you do with them when they're finished?" Lisa asked at last, examining a tree with a critical eye. "Do we eat them now?"
"We can eat one," Erica said. "I like to keep a few back for Christmas Day, and sometimes I take some to work, or share them with friends."
Lisa nodded. "You'll give some to Jack, then? And Ryan? And Mr Hobbes?"
Erica smiled. "Yes." Quite what Hobbes had done to deserve the honorific she wasn't sure, but Mr or not he'd probably eat pretty much anything, cookies included. Ryan might well appreciate a cookie or two and Jack – well, she'd already earmarked two perfect stars and a circle with 'Noel' carefully lettered on it for him.
"Can I maybe take one? For Joshua?"
Erica looked at her with amazement. "Of course you can. I'll get you a box and you can take half of them. You helped make them."
They picked out some cookies for Joshua. Then Lisa took off her apron and handed it to Erica.
"Thank you. I had a nice time."
"I did too," Erica said.
"Mother doesn't bake," Lisa said and the implications and sadness behind it made Erica's heart hurt.
Impulsively Erica reached out and hugged Lisa. After a moment Lisa relaxed and hugged her back. When they stepped away, Lisa reached for the ribbon but Erica shook her head.
"Thank you. Merry Christmas," Lisa said before she slipped her jacket back on.
"Merry Christmas," Erica said, handing her the box of cookies.
"Maybe we can do this again next year?" Lisa asked hopefully.
Erica nodded. "I'd like that."
There might not be a next year, Erica thought sadly. But she forced a smile and said, "There's always Easter. We could decorate chocolate bunnies."
"Easter." Lisa nodded. "I'll look forward to that, then."
One day Anna would die, Erica thought as she watched Lisa leave. And Lisa would be Queen. And so help her, Erica would be there to show Lisa the simple joys of being human, and give her some semblance of the childhood she'd never been allowed. That might make all the difference to those who came after them. That a Visitor could learn to take pleasure in the smell of cinnamon and the joy of sharing home made cookies with those they loved gave her hope for the future of their world.