Miracles Come In Strange Packages

Chapter Ten

"What is this tradition I have been roped into participating in? Zo'or asked.
"Roped?" Ron protested mildly, "I thought you were looking forward to it."
Zo'or gave him 'the look' and he stopped teasing. "It's just a Christmas party, nothing big, just me, you, Liam, Da'an, and a few close friends."
"Friends of whom?" she asked, curious.
"I think friends of Liam and Da'an, we don't really know anyone except Taelons." Ron replied.
"What is involved in this ceremony?" she asked.
"Let's see, you exchange gifts, which I already told you, and you eat, and then you sit around and catch up with memories and experiences." He smiled, it had been a long time since he had gone to a Christmas party, he was actually looking forward to it. He was glad his son had come up with the idea.
"I think I understand." "Are we ready to go?" Zo'or questioned.
"Yes, and we're portalling down, no use making a pilot drive in the snow." he said.
"Very well," she picked up the gift for Da'an and stepped next to her husband and his gift for his son. She then tapped the controls and prepared to be swept away by the portal system. Just before the energy carried her away she couldn't help a smile in anticipation, she had an unexpected gift for her husband that she couldn't wait to present to him.
They were set down in a small antechamber that had been specially decorated for the occasion. It looked cheerful, warm, and welcoming, Da'an, Liam, and a man and woman she vaguely recognized were already in the room.
"Dad, Zo'or, I think you know Augur and Dr. Parks." Liam said. "We have to go and settle a bit of business things, but we'll be back in a second," Liam explained as he walked towards the door, "oh, Dad, can you come with us, you are better at the whole organizing thing than I am."
"Sure, apparently we are a little early anyway." Sandoval left with Auger, Parks, and Liam, laughing softly at a recent joke Augur had heard from a friend in Russia.
Zo'or looked at her parent, "You are well?" she asked.
"I am, and you?" Da'an replied.
"I am content." Zo'or said.
Da'an smiled and held out her arms. Zo'or hugged her in a very un-Taelon fashion and a brief sharing took place. Da'an and Zo'or pulled back with surprised looks on their faces, Zo'or was the first to speak.
"It would appear you are somewhat better than well." she said with a smile.
"You are in the same position," Da'an reminded her with a smile. "Have you told your mate yet?"
"No, Ron doesn't know, I was going to tell him after he opened his present." Zo'or said. "What of your mate, does Liam know of your condition?"
Da'an blushed, "No, I also was waiting for tonight to announce it."
Zo'or changed the subject abruptly, "Who else is invited to this...I believe Ron referred to it as a 'shindig'."
Da'an smiled at the similar vocabulary of her mate and her daughter's husband, "I believe that would be an accurate term." "We have invited Renee Palmer and a Juliet Street, but it is uncertain whether Miss Palmer will be able to attend." Da'an paused, "She explained that she would attempt to clear her schedule."
"I find it hard to believe that the CEO of a computer technology company would have a more difficult time scheduling this in than the Leader of the Taelon Synod," Zo'or said derisively. She paused, "I had heard that you did not enjoy Miss Palmer's company." Zo'or said in a teasing tone.
Da'an stiffened, "Perhaps at first I was a little distant, it is difficult to accept a person who has frequently threatened your mate."
"And the fact that at one time she had a romantic interest in him did not factor in at all." Zo'or asked innocently.
Da'an blushed, "Of course not!" She changed the subject, "I also invited T'than."
"T'than!?!" Zo'or exclaimed, wondering if she had heard correctly.
"That is correct." "I felt that experiencing human traditions would allow him to feel closer to them." Da'an said, then added, "Also this feud of yours has gone on long enough."
"I do not wish to become friendly with T'than, he is a menace to society." Zo'or said angrily, "He also makes insinuating comments about my choice of mates."
"Zo'or, I believe many described you in similar terms in the past, but change is possible." She turned, "Have faith, Zo'or." Da'an finished speaking as the portal activated.
Juliet Street and Renee Palmer stood in between the poles as the light disappeared. "Hey," Street said, "great to see you guys." she said with a smile. Renee nodded to them in turn.
Zo'or stepped forward, "I was about to go and recall my husband and the others from the field, would you care to join me Miss Street?"
Da'an looked at her sharply, realizing that Zo'or was deliberately leaving her and Renee alone. She couldn't help but be annoyed at the way Zo'or was doing the same thing to her and Renee and that she had done to T'than and her child.
"Sure, and call me Juliet, I'm trying to get into the habit of using my first name again." She replied.
Zo'or smiled, "I know exactly what you are referring to, Ron frequently remarks that he cannot seem to get used to responding to his first name." "Sometimes I find it necessary to refer to him as 'Sandoval' simply to get his attention." "I believe he finds it amusing." Zo'or said it with a complaining note, but her smile said it was a false protest. They left quietly and Renee turned to Da'an.
There was an uncomfortable silence as they stared at each other, finally Da'an broke it. "It is fortunate you were able to get away." she said.
"I wasn't as busy as I thought I was going to be." Renee said.
"Juliet talked you into it?" Da'an asked, ignoring her first comment.
"Yeah," Renee said, as if she had not just given an entirely different excuse. She looked Da'an in the eye. "You know I won't make any secret of the fact that I once wanted to date Liam, but I realize that he is totally in love with you." "Besides, I don't date married men," she added.
Da'an was startled that she was so open, she nodded, "Thank-you, I hope we can become friends."
Renee smiled and gestured to the table, "Can I help you with anything?"
"No, I believe everything is finished, we are merely waiting for T'than to arrive." Da'an said. "If you wish you could join the others, it does not require the presence of two."
"Sounds good to me, it looks like Zo'or couldn't drag them away anyway." "I guess I'll have to do it."
Da'an smiled, "I will wait for T'than alone."
Renee nodded and left quietly. A few minutes later, precisely on time T'than arrived, he stepped of the platform and favored Da'an with a superior look.
"T'than," Da'an said, saluting in return to his own greeting, "it is a pleasure to see you again."
"Da'an, make no mistake, I am only here because to not attend would be diplomatically unwise."
Da'an gave him an amused smile, "It is my hope that you will change your opinion for the human's social status by interacting on a more intimate setting."
"Your hopes are in vain, there is no human that compares to a Taelon." "While I have found that they can be useful, I will not concede equality." T'than said.
Da'an knew that T'than was a very prideful, concealing, and determined person and always before he had treated humanity as cannon fodder. After the wrongness was destroyed he had not noticeably changed, but there were a few little things that made Da'an suspect that he was waiting for something to allow the change. He had much too much pride to simply modify all his viewpoints at once and admit his mistake, no he needed a reason with which to credit his change. "I will give him a reason," Da'an thought to herself.
"Perhaps you will change your mind," Da'an murmured as the others entered.
"T'than," Liam said with a smile and a salute, "glad you could come."
T'than gave him a suspicious glare and, when he detected no mocking in his tone or inflection, inclined his head.
"Where is Juliet?" Da'an asked.
"In the bathroom, something about fixing her hair after Liam mussed it," Renee said.
T'than swung his gaze to meet hers, a very superior look on his face.
Renee glowered at him and crossed the room to talk to Dr. Parks. Auger grinned at the Taelon War Minister, "Don't mind her, she doesn't like you."
"That is obvious," T'than said.
"Her justification is equally obvious," Zo'or said.
T'than turned, "I do not dispute the claim, Zo'or," he said without raising his voice, "I do, however dispute yours."
Zo'or gave him a speculative look, "Prove to me you speak the truth," Zo'or said. She extended her hand to him while her family and friends looked on.
T'than pressed his hand to the younger Taelons and shared his energy. It only took a matter of moments for the information to be transferred and they both pulled away. Zo'or stared at T'than for a good thirty seconds before smiling and holding out her arms. T'than, surprised, wrapped his arms around her, oblivious to their smiling audience. After a few minutes T'than and Zo'or parted and she motioned for her mate to come forward. Reluctantly Sandoval detached himself from the group and approached the War Minister and his wife.
"Ron, I know you are acquainted with T'than, but you may not know that he is my second parent." Zo'or said quietly.
Sandoval looked surprised, before grinning ruefully. "I suppose I should have known you'd have to have gotten your cutthroat politics from someone," he said.
Zo'or smiled while T'than merely looked proud replied, "Actually, Da'an was quite the dictator back in those days."
Da'an looked embarrassed, Liam and Zo'or were in agreement, and the others all smiled in disbelief at Da'an being tyrannical.
"Well, we do have refreshments for all our human," Da'an paused, "or Kimeran guests." she added.
"I'm not sure if I want to try that," Auger said, pointing at the artichoke and spinach dip.
"Don't worry, I've got regular ranch dip for us normal people, that is for Street, she is the health food nut." Liam said.
"Why is it that food that is good for you always has to taste so bad?" Auger complained.
"I heard that!" Juliet said, entering the room.
Auger grinned, "I meant for you to."
"I'll have you know," she continued, ignoring his interjection, "that plenty of nutritious food has an excellent flavor."
"Yeah, excellent for cleaning fluid," Renee added under her breath. Auger laughed, but Juliet didn't hear them.
"So, what did I miss?" she asked.
Sandoval grinned, "T'than is Zo'or's father.
"What!" Juliet cried!
Liam smirked, "You missed all the drama, I think Auger was in tears."
"I was not!" the hacker protested. While Liam, Renee, and Sandoval proceeded to argue about Auger's tears Juliet made her way back to the Taelons.
"Hey," she said, reaching them, "you guys are better than a soap opera."
"Soap opera?" T'than asked, Zo'or and Da'an smiled, understanding the joke.
"Yeah, it's a television program in which every time the show starts to quiet down something new happens to get everyone riled up again." she explained.
"By your description it does seem to apply." T'than admitted.
"Of course, if this were really a soap opera right about now someone should be announcing they are pregnant." Juliet said.
Zo'or and Da'an exchanged a look that went unnoticed as T'than and Juliet began a conversation about quantum physics which quickly became a quiet heated argument. Da'an and Zo'or crossed to the other side of the room to leave them alone and sat beside their respective mates.
The night passed quickly. T'than was quickly integrated, thanks mostly to the fast friendship he had formed with Juliet, and the conversation jumped from topic to topic fluidly. By the time the party was winding down they were all well reacquainted and it was time for presents.
Da'an placed her present into her child's hand and took her own from her. Liam and Sandoval exchanged gifts, as did Renee and Auger and Juliet and T'than.
"Are we going according to age?" Renee asked.
"That's the way my parents always did it," Sandoval said.
"Ok, oldest to youngest," Juliet said, she turned to T'than. "Are you or Da'an older?"
T'than thought quickly and replied, "I am seven thousand four hundred and twelve of your years, Da'an, how old are you?"
Da'an quickly calculated, "I am seven thousand two hundred and ninety-eight of your years," Da'an said, "T'than is older."
"Ok," Juliet said, unfazed by their ages, "so it's T'than, Da'an, Zo'or, Sandoval, Renee, me, and then Liam."
"How do you know I'm older than Renee," Sandoval objected. Street gave him 'the look' and raised an eyebrow, Sandoval looked a bit embarrassed, "Oh."
"Go ahead, T'than." Zo'or said, encouragingly.
T'than took his rather colorful gift and removed the paper carefully to avoid ripping it. Juliet gave a good natured sigh at his antics while Sandoval, Renee, and Liam exchanged amused looks. Finally the paper was gone and the box opened, inside was a Taelon artifact that looked to be extremely valuable.
T'than looked floored, "Where did you find it?"
"I tracked it down to a man somewhere in Australia, it was recovered from a dig and sold illegally." She smiled, "Then I bought it with funds stolen from the same man who bought it on the black market."
T'than smiled and thanked her profusely until she blushed.
Da'an was next, she opened it to find a memory sphere with several of Zo'or's most treasured childhood thoughts recorded on it. She blushed and hugged her child.
Then came Zo'or who was given a medal of obvious Taelon origin. No one besides Da'an and Zo'or recognized the significance, but it was well received. After her Sandoval unwrapped a perfect recreation of a train set he had had as a child. It was miniaturized even smaller and ran on a tiny little track while giving off diminutive puffs of smoke and whistles. Renee got an antique silver ring with a false top that contained a deadly poison, she expressed to Auger several times how much she loved it. In return, Renee gave Auger the codes and back door passwords of several of the largest corporations in the world. Auger actually kissed her, he was so happy. T'than gave Juliet a clear jewelry box of Taelon origin that projected complex geometric designs across it's surface whenever it was touched. It was also locked onto her genetic makeup so only she could open it, she smiled at him with such gratitude that he actually blushed blue. Finally Liam opened his to reveal a picture of a shuttle, he looked at his father in confusion.
Sandoval grinned, "You know how you were assigned your own shuttle for your own personal use?" he asked.
Liam nodded and then his eyes widened, "You didn't!" he exclaimed.
"It's all yours," Sandoval said, delighted with his son's enthusiasm.
"Thanks Dad!" Liam said, a huge grin on his face.
"It came out of your college fund," Sandoval quipped and Liam laughed.
Everyone leaned back, finishing their drinks and talking quietly, they knew they should be getting back but no one wanted to be the first to leave. Before anyone could work up the courage to say good-bye Da'an stood up and motioned for Zo'or to join her.
"Zo'or and I have one final gift to give," Da'an said. The others gave them their attention. Da'an reached down and tugged Liam to his feet, Ron rose also at Zo'or's direction.
Zo'or nervously took her husband's hand, on the other side of the couch Da'an did the same. They used the grip to initiate a mild sharing, a joining only of their uppermost thoughts. The other guests watched as Liam's face broke into a smile and Ron's turned shocked, but pleased.
"You were already aware!" Da'an accused.
"I knew the signs." "I have suspected for several weeks," Liam said.
"I wanted to surprise you." Da'an said.
"Could you settle for making me very happy?" Liam asked.
Da'an seemed to cheer up, "I supposed," she said, and kissed him.
Zo'or had drawn Sandoval off to the side and was speaking to him quietly. While Da'an and Liam gently explained what was going on to everyone except T'than, Zo'or gently placed her husband's hand on her abdomen. It glowed briefly as the sharing was initiated between all three. Sandoval grinned and kissed her. They both returned to the table as their friends tried not to stare.

~Wonderful, yes, I know! I'm going for the newlywed feeling between the couples. I know it's kind of anti-Taelonesque, but it fits that because Disony removed the hate from between the species they will become more like each other. Da'an and Zo'or are just a little more ahead on the human-like behavior. Have a nice day! ~