Hohoho, merry Christmas! Its really more appropriate to write a Christmas fic instead of all the other 9 stuff I've been struggling to finish. In the meantime, this is short and sweet, and full of more religious stuff. If you've read any of my other work, you're very aware of where my allegiance lies. This fic is dependent on Faith Journey; so, if you want to read that one first, go nuts.
Also, I am writing on my brand new tablet, killing time as we travel from the east coast to Branson, MO. As I sit in the van typing this, we are currently lost somewhere in northern Arkansas, because my grandparents spent all last night trusting their new Tom-Tom instead of an updated atlas like smart people. (Yeah, the ones from Where the Wild Things Are.) As of today, there is no auto-correct on this tablet. I'll fix this later...
Look for these charming imagery themes: stars and light; gifts; love; how 9 and Jesus are alike, and how they are subsequently different. Also, feel free to reflect on your favorite Christmas traditions as you consider what little our intrepid Stitchpunks know about how we celebrate. There are also several references to traditional Christmas hymns; if you can spot any, I'll send you an epic commemorative Christmas smiley! They're challenges, so keep a sharp eye. ;)
Finally, when you get to the part about Sol Invictus—this is totally why we celebrate Christmas on December 25. The church didn't just pull this date out of its butt and force people to conform or die. This is seriously one of the coolest things about Jesus that I have ever learned!
Enjoy! Merry Christmas!
Suddenly, A Star
It always got cold this time of the year. The air was crisp and snappish, and it somehow made the broken world seem clearer. High above it all, the night sky was a deep, crystalline blue, so dark it was nearly black. Millions of stars sparkled like jewels, the pictures they formed all the easier to see in the crisp, cold, still of night.
Having no muscles or blood to be kept warm, the cold didn't bother the Stitchpunks that much. It was 9's first winter, the first real seasonal change he had experienced, and he reveled in it. He found it surreal and beautiful; and it fueled his ever burning curiosity enough to keep them all warm. As for the others, their feelings about wintertime were mixed. They had already seen several winters come and go. For herself, 7 preferred to remain indoors for once; for her, winter was an opportunity to look inward and nest for a bit. She would spend the few long months preparing for summer to come again; by that time, her arsenal of tools would be replenished, repairs around the library would be complete, and she would be rested enough to spend most of her summer outside, where she liked to be.
The twins didn't mind the cold at all. In fact, they often sat outside in the courtyard until late at night, stargazing with a spyglass they had built. The fact that it had rained so much during the summer and autumn put them on pins and needles. With so much precipitation lately—for the first time in years—they had reason to believe it would snow this year. None of them had ever seen snow before. 1 and 2, who had been born in the winter, had been lucky enough to see snow before it melted entirely—just in time for the twins to miss it. All that had been left for them were their elder's stories about the downy white water crystals, and how utterly beautiful they were. Every winter since then, they had wished for snow to fall again, even for only a few moments, just to know what it was like.
This might be the year that their wish finally came true. They could hardly sit still, they were so excited.
On most nights, 9 would sit and stargaze with them. He enjoyed their intelligent company, and how they had a habit of answering his most pressing questions before he even asked. His questions lately revolved around the weather, of course. The idea of snow intrigued him as well, the science of it as well as the imagery. He hoped it would snow, too.
They also continued to discuss the twin's research on their Bible. Since they had begun studying the tattered tome late in the summer, they had discovered an amazing faith that they felt made them stronger from the inside out. 9 was amazed to find that he felt the same, and 7 seemed to agree. The more the four of them learned, the more sense it made. Even if it eventually turned out to not be real, it was nice to believe that a loving God existed somewhere, and that, if no one else cared or was even aware of them, He would care.
"I think there was some sort of festival this time every year about Jesus, but we're not entirely sure what it was all about."
"Celebrating his birth, or something," 4 added. "But we have no idea why they would pick the middle of winter to celebrate something that important and happy. I'd have picked sometime in the summer, when its warm and nice."
"Winter's still kind of nice," 3 insisted.
"Summer's nicer, though..."
"Maybe it's because everything seems so much brighter and clearer," 9 suggested. "It's cold, but I feel like it's easier to think out here."
"Oh, and there was a Roman festival in the wintertime," 3 remembered. "They had this god called Sol Invictus, and his feast day was on December 25."
"What does that have to do with Jesus?"
4 giggled delightedly. "Sol Invictus means 'Unconquered Son' in Latin. Now I remember! 3 and I were so excited when we learned this! The early Christians used this festival as a metaphor for pagan people to understand who Jesus was. 'Cause, you know, He was the Unconquered Son. Cool, huh? "
"They called it Christmas, the day that Jesus was supposedly born," 3 concluded.
"How could they have really known when he was born? You said he lived more than two thousand years ago."
"Humans loved to make stuff about Jesus up, as if they owned him," 3 answered, sounding a little peeved.
"It's not their fault," 4 countered. "When you lose dates like that, you still have to celebrate sometime. I kind of like that, invading a pagan holiday and turning it into something beautiful for the rest of human history. I guess winter isn't such a bad time to celebrate, after all."
"In these cold, long months, I suppose we need something good to celebrate," 9 commented. "I think even your mama will be happier about this. As long as we're all that's left of humanity, I say we celebrate, instead of forgetting it. When is December 25? Have we missed it? "
"We're not sure," 4 confessed. "It's been a while since we've had an actual calendar to look at."
"We'd been trying to time the year by the stars, but we don't know them well enough yet."
"But the constellations we do know are right; it's certainly sometime in December right now."
"How much time do we have left?"
"We don't know," the twins chorused.
"How do we get ready for it? How did the humans celebrate? "
"Um, they would decorate evergreens with shiny things."
"And they'd sing songs about Jesus."
"They'd all get together with their families—they'd travel from all over to be with each other."
"And they'd make a ton of special food."
"And they'd give each other gifts."
It sounded to 9 like their Christmas would be missing a lot. There were no evergreens to decorate—there wasn't anything green for hundreds of miles in any direction. They didn't know any songs about Jesus, or about anything, really. Most of their family was dead, and couldn't come back to celebrate with them. They couldn't eat food, and there wasn't much in the way of gifts to give each other. Without realizing it, his face fell dismally as he considered the list.
"We can still have a lovely Christmas, papa" 4 insisted, snuggling up closer to him. "It's what we make of it, like you always say."
"As long as the four of us are together, remembering what's made us so happy, I think that's all we really need. When Jesus was born, He barely had any more than we have now."
"His mama and papa were poor; they were in a city that wasn't even their home. The only shelter they could find was in a smelly old barn full of noisy animals. His mama had to put Him in a feeding trough the animals ate out of, because they didn't have a warm bed for Him. Jesus Christ, Sol Invictus, the only son of God. At least we live in a nice home that we know and love, and we have warm beds to sleep in at night. I'll bet that was an amazing Christmas."
"It was the first Christmas, dumb."
"And look how amazing it turned out! We've got so much more; I'll bet we can have the best Christmas ever!"
9 admired his son's enthusiasm. He was right; if the King of Kings could create such an enduring reason to celebrate out of so little, maybe celebrating with just as little was appropriate. They had a few shiny odds and ends lying around; they could decorate something. They didn't know any of the old songs, but 7 had taught them to sing; they could make up their own songs. As for gifts... He could surely think of a few things his wife and children would be happy to receive.
"I love the way you think, 3," he smiled. "And, 4, you shouldn't call your brother dumb."
"I'm not the one who needs to hear it."
"I'm sorry I called you dumb, 3."
"But we are dumb, dumb; we can't speak," 3 teased, looking through the spyglass. "But I know what you mean. I forgive you, sis."
"So, does this mean that we're having Christmas, papa?"
"Yes. Absolutely. The best Christmas ever, just like your brother said."
Over the next few days, the twins spent their spare time collecting random gears, nuts and bolts to deck their study with. The findings they gathered were strung on thread and hung from anything they could find. When they had finished hanging their garland, the study looked like some kind of spider web. When their parents saw their work for the first time, they were pretty impressed that the twins had done so much on their own.
Elsewhere, 9 and 7 were doing a much neater job with a gear-garland of their own making. Upon hearing of her family's plans to celebrate Christmas, now that they knew what it was, 7 had gotten excited, herself. The idea of Jesus had been frightening to her, at first. He had seemed demanding and confining when the twins had first spoken of Him. However, as they continued to study and report back everything they found, she found that she stood corrected. She actually found that her ne faith made her feel stronger, and she was eternally grateful to the source of her new strength. Celebrating the coming of that source was a wonderful idea. The chance to make her nest as fair as she could was an opportunity she surprised everyone by jumping at with all her might.
9 also got the impression that she had something special planned for all of them. She was excited and impatient about something. She was in such a rare, happy form; it made him happy, too. He couldn't wait to see what she was hiding.
"I wish you could just tell me what it is you've got for us," he teased as they finished decking their bedroom.
"You and your curiosity," 7 scolded with a smile. "If I told you, it wouldn't be a surprise," she pointed out, tacking another gear to the wall.
"I already know what I'm giving you; we'll trade—I'll tell you if you tell me."
"No, absolutely not! I want it to be a surprise. You'll like it even more if you wait for it; look how well I'm waiting."
9 could abide by that. He was excited about the gifts he had found for them, too. For the twins, he had been making tool sets. Each set had a screwdriver, a hammer, and a pair of pliers—the tools he found them borrowing most often. He had been making them in secret, looking for a good time to surprise his children. Christmas was perfect.
For 7, he had pondered and pondered what to find for her. Then, the other day, he had found it, lying in the rubble by the side of the road. There, covered in several years of dirt and dust, was a silver ring crowned with a single sparkling gemstone, cut in a rhombus. It would easily slip over her head for a necklace. Taking it home to examine it, the twins informed him that the gem was a diamond, the hardest and most valuable of gems, a symbol of love and eternity.
That was the perfect gift for 7. It practically had her name engraved on it. He couldn't believe that he would get to give it to her. He wanted so badly to tell her what he had found for her, but he wouldn't spoil the surprise for her.
And now, with their home decked with garlands of gears, and their gifts for each other picked out, all they had to do was wait for Christmas to come...
Several nights passed. The cold grew deeper and clearer, until even the twins stayed inside and did their stargazing through the holes in the library roof. It was sometime in the middle of December, they said, judging by how the constellation called Orion was slowly doing a cartwheel in the winter sky. But there was no way to truly know the date.
And, still, there was no snow.
It was only early in the evening, but dark and drafty in the library. At least, with the benefit of fire, it was warmer inside than out. 9 was still in the process of building a new light stick—when he found more light bulbs, he planned to fill the library with light sticks, even. For now, he and 7 illuminated their space with a lantern she had cut herself from a tin can. It was a tall box of tin with a hole in the front for a candle to be placed and lit, and two shutters that slid up and down. One shutter was another solid piece of tin, but the other had little holes punched in it; when the candlelight shone through, it looked like they were sitting in the middle of the night sky, amid the brilliant stars.
The darkness being particularly deep inside, the pair sat together in full candlelight. They had tried at first to carry on a normal, pleasant conversation that didn't involve Christmas gifts, or that their family wasn't alive to celebrate with them, or the troubles to be faced in the coming year; but they had found this impossible. Instead, they sat in silence and admired the candle fire. 7 was snuggled up beside him, her head on his shoulder and her hand secure in his; every now and again, she would sigh slowly, contentedly, and it made 9 smile, too. Knowing that his true love was happy gave him more joy than any material thing ever could.
Then, all at once—
"Mama! Papa! It's here! It's finally here!"
The twins came skittering in, disrupting the pleasant silence with their boundless energy, as they were wont to do.
"The Christmas star is here!" 3 exclaimed, jumping up and down. "It's Christmas, for sure!"
"The Christmas star? It gets its own star?" 7 asked, amazed.
"It led wisemen from far away to Bethlehem, where Jesus was born. They brought him gifts, and that's why we give them to each other now, I think."
7's eyes went wide. "Oh, that's right!" She jumped up and dashed off, looking over her shoulder and saying, "I'll be right back. I have to get some things."
"We can finally give our gifts? I can't wait to see what she's got for us; I thought she was going to jump out of her skin," 9 commented as the twins sat down in either side of him. "I think you guys are really going to like your gifts."
Neither of them answered him right away; they just smiled sweetly. Actually, behind those smiles, they seemed a little down. He wondered why.
"You know, papa, you really are a lot like Jesus," 3 commented, not for the first time. "Maybe we should just celebrate you, too."
9 laughed. "What makes you think that?"
"There's this one Bible verse that we love, 'cause it's about Jesus, but it sounds like you," 4 explained.
"Which one is that?"
"John 3:16," 3 recited. "'For God so loved the world, he gave his only son so that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life'. Doesn't that sound like you, papa?"
"I don't know about that."
"Why not? Our creator sent you to save the rest of us, and the ones who believed in you survived."
"First of all, I wasn't the only son. Second, how many mistakes did you say Jesus made in His life?"
"None; He was perfect," 4 answered right away.
"And there you have it. We might have a few things in common, but I'm certainly not Jesus Christ; no more so than our maker was God. To make mistakes is human, and we're barely any more than that; I'm sure that the scientist made his fare share of mistakes, as well."
"Aside from the Machine?"
"Of course. And I'm sure that I'll make several more of my own. To be compared to Jesus is an honor I don't deserve. But thank you."
The twins nodded understandingly. It was an incredible parallelism, and nothing more. A moment later, 7 returned with several lengths of cloth over one arm, and a bright smile on her face.
"Stand up," she insisted, passing a cloth to each of them. "You have to put these on."
9 held his up to the light. It was a bright red coat with a hood, and it reached almost to his toes. Beside him, the twins had received the same, one in green and the other in icy blue.
"It been colder this year," 7 explained, helping 3 get his arm into his sleeve. "I wanted you all to be warm, so I made these. How do they fit?"
"Perfectly!" 3 answered, even though his sleeves were just a little too long.
9 slipped into his and found that it really did fit him perfectly. There was even a button clasp on the front to keep it closed. He felt warmer already.
"7, when did you make these?"
"When you weren't looking," she answered.
"I don't think I knew you could sew this well."
"I didn't think I did, either. I worked really hard on these; you have no idea how hard it was to keep these hidden from you."
"Do you have one?"
"Naturally," she said, taking the last coat from her pile on putting it on, herself. It was dark blue, and it became her well. She was so pretty; he couldn't help but embrace her.
"These are wonderful," he said. "Thank you."
"Now it's my turn," he said decidedly, unzipping his zipper, where his gifts were hidden. "7, I have to give you yours first; if I don't, I think I might explode."
"Ooh, I wonder what it could be...?"
She didn't have to wonder for long. 9 reached into his body cavity and produced the diamond ring. The silver was still tarnished, but the diamond sparkled in the light, casting a rainbow prism of colors on everything.
"This gem is a diamond," he explained, slipping the ring over her head. "It's the strongest of all gems; it must be for you."
7 was stunned. She held the diamond in its setting, at a loss for words over her magnificent gift.
"...It's... It's beautiful," she said at last. "I don't know what to say."
"Just say thank you, then," he suggested, hugging her once again.
"My coats seem so silly next to this."
"No they don't. I love mine; I'm glad you live your gift as much as I love mine."
She regarded him with a loving smile, and laughed softly. "Red is a good color for you, you know."
She was too wonderful for words. He leaned a little closer and gave her a gentle kiss.
"I love you."
"I love you, too."
Sort of forgotten, the twins started fidgeting.
"Aw, you're both silly."
"Oh stop that, I haven't forgotten about you," 9 insisted, reaching for their tool kits. Each set had been encased in a small wooden box with a lid. He handed each of them a box, then stood back and watched them open their gifts. Their little eyes went wide as they looked over their new tools—all their own, and just their size.
"What do you think? Do you like them?"
To his surprise, 4 began to cry.
"They're wonderful!" She sobbed miserably. "They're just what we wanted!"
9 had no idea why his daughter was so upset, but he held her close, trying to soothe her. "What's the matter? Why are you crying?" He asked, but she was crying too hard to answer.
"We had tried so hard to find a gift for you and mama," 3 said slowly and sadly, not looking up, and fishing a length of red ribbon out of his own body cavity. "We were gonna tie your gift with this, but... We couldn't find anything good enough."
"You gave us such wonderful gifts," 4 cried, "but we don't have anything for you! We're terrible children!"
"That most certainly is not true," 9 insisted, not sure how to prove this to his disheartened children. But then, he got a great idea.
"4, calm down, and come stand beside your brother," he said, propelling her back to her usual place beside her twin. He took the ribbon from 3's hand, looped it around the two of them, and tied the ends in a quick bow. He stepped back and admired his work—the twins tied together with a ribbon—while the rest of them wondered what had been accomplished.
"...I don't understand, papa," 4 said quietly after a confused pause.
"The two of you are our Christmas gift."
His reasoning dawned on them like the sun. 4 looked like she might be moved enough to cry again. Relieved and overjoyed, 3 grinned.
"Do you like our gift?" he asked triumphantly.
"We love it," 7 answered. "You're exactly what we wanted."
"The best part," 3 continued, wriggling out of the ribbon and running into her arms, "is that you don't even have to unwrap us, 'cause we've been here all along! You didn't have to wait or anything!"
"There's no gift I treasure more than you and your sister," 7 agreed, holding her brilliant child close. "Christmas was a wonderful idea; thank you for sharing it with us."
3 looked up at her with a huge smile, his glass and metal eyes shining in the candlelight. "Mama, do you suppose Jesus ever hugged His mama like this?"
"I'm sure He must have," she answered. She pushed his hood back a little and gently kissed his forehead, making him giggle a rapid sputter of flickers.
Meanwhile, 9 had picked up 4 and planted her on his hip—one of her favorite perches—with the red ribbon still hanging loosely around her shoulders.
"You're so smart, papa. Are we really all you want for Christmas?"
"You said yourselves that Jesus had less than this on the night he came into this world. And I guess that He and I are alike in that way, as well. We don't need much, do we? We've got each other."
"I wish I could grow up, so I could grow up to be like you," she commented. Taking the bow in her hands, she placed it on her head and said, "Look, it's a crown! So, you kinda gave me two gifts. Wow, am I lucky!"
"You are so clever, my princess," 9 laughed, taking her hand and kissing her icy fingers. "If your mama and I never received another gift for the rest of our lives, we wouldn't care. You and your brother are more than we ever could have designed on our own. We love you."
"We love you too, papa."
9 was going to say more, but something suddenly drifted past his face and distracted him. It was a little white dot, shimmering in the firelight. In fact, there were several such dots floating down from the ceiling, and the others noticed, as well. Looking upwards, they all saw more white dots falling down towards them through a hole in the roof.
Without excusing themselves, the twins ran out together toward the door; unsure of what was happening, their parents followed them, carrying the tin lantern with them. However, when they came close to the door, they found they had no need for it after all: outside, not only was the moon full and bright, but a great silver star shone in the sky directly above the library. Where it had come from was a mystery, but it bathed the ruined city in soft silver light, almost as bright as the sun.
The Christmas star.
They all ran out into the courtyard and found themselves standing amid a gentle shower of white flakes. They looked like stars falling to earth. 3 held out his hand and carefully caught one of the flakes in his wooden palm; holding it between himself and his twin, they analyzed and catalogued it. Then they looked at one another with a look of amazement.
"...Snow," 3 said at a bewondered whisper.
"It's really snow... It's really snow!" 4 exclaimed. They took off like rockets, skittering joyously through the drifting flakes.
"We just knew it was going to be this year! It had to be!"
"It's amazing! It's just like 2 said it would be!"
It was amazing, indeed; better than any of them had ever been able to imagine. 7 held out her hand to catch a few snowflakes of her own, and held them close so that 9 could see them too. They were so frosty and delicate, and perfectly white.
"I think I used to be this color..." 7 said vaguely. "...He loved to talk about snow, but we could never quite see it."
"They're just frozen drops of rain, really," 9 mused. "But it's so beautiful; and look how much joy it brings," he added, watching the twins playing in the falling snow, illuminated by moonlight.
"It's all they've wanted for so long; it's been their dearest wish to see snow. To see snow for the first time on Christmas... It must be special tonight. It's magical, isn't it?"
"Yes, it is; I can feel it all around us, in the air."
7 put her arms around him and leaned her head against his. "It feels like love."
There was certainly love in the air, drifting around them with the snow. Like it came along with the star and the snow, directly from Heaven. It must have been Jesus Christ, love itself, come to spend His birthday with them, of all people. And, maybe He had brought the love of their lost family with Him; maybe they had come home for Christmas after all. Because 9 didn't know what it was, exactly... but, for a split second, he could have sworn that he felt 5 standing beside him again.
Warm in his new coat, safe with his family, and surrounded by love of all kinds, he couldn't help but smile.
"Merry Christmas, my love."
"Merry Christmas, 9...We will do this again next year, right?"
"Absolutely. And it'll be even better."
So, this whole story only took an entire vacation's worth of dillydallying and shillyshallying through the sentimental parts to complete. Oh, and amusement parks. And shopping. And hookahs and kettlecorn. Vacations rule! 8D
Not bad, for my first fic penned entirely on a 7x5 tablet. Kinda tedious at times, but useful for figuring out of Word works on this unwieldy behemoth. This is not terrible; it's actually pretty easy, when the keyboard is on its side. It's just when power is low that typing gets difficult.
Well, my Christmas was a blast this year, and I hope y'all's was, as well. Thanks for reading!